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Church of England takes on Ofcom

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The Anglican Church has joined a campaign demanding greater restitution for wireless microphone users, claiming the cost of shifting frequencies will top a million quid.

Save Our Sound UK was set up in November by the various groups who want Ofcom to cough up more money to those moved on to make way for digital television. The regulator has said money will be forthcoming, but not as much as the campaigners, now with ecclesiastical backing, want.

Not that every church will be affected - many still have cables or make use of unlicensed spectrum. But places of worship that found unlicensed spectrum too crowded, or use more than four microphones at the same time, have peppercorn-rated licences at channel 69 (855.25MHz) and its those licences that will cease to exist come 2012.

The current plan involves shifting those users to channel 38 (607.25MHz), or 39 (615.25MHz) where 38 isn't available, and it's that shift that the church estimates will cost it £1m.

American churches didn't have a lot of luck preventing the FCC from allowing commercial use of white space, despite recruiting Dolly Parton to the cause. US microphone users lurking in the white spaces have until June 12th to clear out, though to be fair most of them were never supposed to be there in the first place.

The issue is more complex in the UK where existing users hold licences. Everyone acknowledges that they have to move, the question is where they're going to go and how much they'll get for shifting. Ofcom agrees that licence holders are entitled to compensation, but the devil lies in the details of how much, and to whom it's due.

Which is probably the motivation behind the Anglican move: ensuring that churches aren't ignored in the forthcoming payout. They might not be as high-profile as a West End show, but they consider themselves equally important. ®

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