The long-running saga of Ofcom's decision to sell-off wireless Channel 69 took a farcical turn this week as it emerged that 'surrendered' wireless systems are being re-sold to the public, still operating on the 'cleared' channel - by Ofcom's own contractor.
In 2009 Ofcom announced that wireless microphone users would be evicted from the 800MHz band to make way for new mobile broadband services. Following an industry campaign, Save Our Sound UK, which pointed out the damage being done to the British entertainment industry, the UK Government agreed to fund part of the clearance of the band. To qualify for taxpayer funding, Channel 69 equipment had to be surrendered.
Now, it is alleged, this surrendered equipment is being resold back into the band which taxpayers paid to remove it from, by the scheme’s administrator - Equiniti. The move seems guaranteed to hit wirless system manufacturers and retailers, alike.
According to the industry advocacy group, BEIRG: "A significant amount of equipment has already been sold, and Equiniti are now gearing up their operations to release up to 80,000 channels for use in UK spectrum. Only a fraction of the profit from the sale is going to the taxpayer who financed the scheme – the rest goes directly to Equiniti.
"The British Entertainment Industry Radio Group (BEIRG) has repeatedly warned Ofcom about the damage that resale of this equipment could cause to manufacturers, wireless microphone users, and taxpayers. An influx of under-priced equipment, which will not be licensable in just over a year, will grossly distort the UK microphone sale and hire market – and will go against the very purpose of the taxpayer funded scheme."
Following a meeting with Equiniti on Wednesday 14th September, Ron Bonner, from PLASA and the BEIRG Steering Committee, stated: “Equiniti has been paid from our taxes, through Ofcom, to administer the PMSE funding scheme. Equiniti have not paid for the equipment themselves – the public paid for it. Equiniti now want to sell the equipment on for profit, whilst damaging microphone manufacturers’ and the taxpayers’ chance of getting the highest price for the 800MHz band when it is auctioned next year. Ofcom need to step in now to stop this sale, and ensure that the original purpose of the scheme is not undermined by the re-release of surrendered equipment into UK spectrum.”