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In praise of… channel 69 (Read 5434 times)
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In praise of… channel 69
Nov 17th, 2009, 7:52am
With the possible exception of Britney Spears and Madonna, few would die for a wireless microphone. But you would be wrong to think it is not a subject capable of stoking passion. Much of the live entertainment industry in Britain, along with sports events, conferences and community events, will be affected by an Ofcom plan to auction off the radio frequencies upon which the industry depends.

The frequencies, known collectively as channel 69, were originally exempted from the large block of spectrum being freed up as the country switches from analogue to digital TV. But such is the potential value of this prime bit of frequency real estate for mobile broadband that the government could not resist kicking the entertainments industry off this channel. Ofcom plans to move all current users on to a different channel, but that is not the point. In the process, everyone will have to throw away their old radio mics and buy new ones.

This is worth tens of millions of pounds, and Ofcom is promising to refund only the residual value of the equipment it is junking, not the replacement value. Many involved in live music are operating on low margins and, in the case of charitable and community organisations, no margins at all. Much of the equipment is owned by small, specialist firms, which could go bust. One of two things has got to happen. Either Ofcom extends the period left to use microphones on the old frequencies, or the government should pay up.

The Guardian, Tuesday 17 November 2009

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