UK - The British Entertainment Industry Radio Group (BEIRG) has expressed its disappointment and concern regarding Ofcom's decision to remove Programme Making and Special Events (PMSE) users from the 700MHz band of radio spectrum. Ofcom's decision is a real danger to some of the UK's most important cultural, social and economic events. Instead, this spectrum will be allocated to Mobile Network Operators.

The regulator's decision will mean that radio microphones and other wireless audio devices key to the UK's thriving creative industries, including West End and regional theatres, could be forced to operate in less than two thirds of the spectrum to which they currently have access. Every night over 1000 wireless radio microphones are used in London's West End alone, largely operating within the spectrum that is to be cleared.

Fears remain that, if appropriate mitigating steps are not taken this could prove catastrophic to these key economic sectors, potentially resulting in a major reduction in the size of the UK's live entertainment sector. Such an outcome would mean that music festivals and major national events, such as the Queen's Diamond Jubilee concert, would be almost impossible to stage, the West End would find it impossible to operate at its current level and major TV, film productions and conferences would be disrupted.

BEIRG acknowledges that Ofcom is working to pursue mitigating steps, including the allocation of a sufficient quantity and quality of spectrum in which PMSE users can continue to operate. However, BEIRG retains deep concerns that PMSE's removal from the 700MHz band is continuing apace, whilst only a little progress has been made in finding a new home for wireless microphones. It is essential that Ofcom prioritise this process, and the allocation of appropriate funding to enable the industry to purchase replacement equipment, in order to avoid the scenario described above.

Michael Grade, a member of the British Entertainment Industry Radio Group, commented: "This decision by Ofcom poses a real danger to some of the UK's most cherished cultural and social institutions. The West End, theatres, television and film production, music festivals and conferences all rely on wireless microphones and other wireless audio devices. If these devices are not guaranteed enough spectrum in which to operate this really could mean lights out. Ofcom have had years to sort this out and all we have is a promise of a solution. When the public can't get the shows they have paid to see, we will all know where the blame lies."

(Jim Evans)

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