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Ofcom responds to threatened luvvies

But still wants free market to decide on wireless specs

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UK telecoms regulator Ofcom has published a supplement to its Digital Dividend Review, looking specifically at the needs of the entertainment industry, and presenting options which might preserve the wireless microphone in theatres and TV.

Entitled Programme-making and special events: future spectrum access, the supplement runs through the responses Ofcom has received from its consultation document, and identifies the special needs of the PMSE (programme making and special event) industry.

Professional wireless microphones currently use frequencies squeezed between the analogue TV channels, but once we all switch to digital TV there'll be no such gaps, and Ofcom wants to open up all the frequencies to highest-bidder auction.

But the PMSE industry reckons they bring income into the country (well, to London anyway) which doesn't come to their own pockets, and thus they can't compete with mobile phone companies or TV broadcasters in paying market rate for a license.

More than 10 per cent of the responses received on the original proposal addressed the PMSE business, most in favour of maintaining something similar to the current situation, though intriguingly Microsoft was among those companies arguing that the frequencies are currently underused and should be opened up to the free market.

Ofcom has proposed maintaining some frequencies until 2012, in the hope that new technology will make the problem disappear. But what they'd really like to see is some form of third-party buying a chunk of spectrum and then licensing it out to events, and event companies, for wireless communications; the only question is if that body should pay a fair market price for that chunk, or some form of price protection should be in place to protect an industry which brings so much income to the country - though Ofcom notes that respondents were unable to provide supporting evidence for their estimates of that income.

Responses to this new document, and the options proposed by Ofcom, are required by 31 August, and it will be the end of the year before any final decision is reached. ®

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