10 November 2009
British entertainment industry launches 'Save our Sound UK' campaign
Today, 21 major organisations representing the breadth and depth of the British Entertainment Industry launched a campaign calling on the Government to act to secure the future of live music, newsgathering, musical theatre, film making, television production, sports events, concerts, conferences (including party conferences) and church, school and community events in the UK.
All of these activities, that benefit everyone either directly or indirectly, are under threat. This is because Ofcom, supported by Government, has decided to clear out and sell the radio frequencies that the industry relies on, and move those evicted elsewhere. The precise location of this new much smaller 'home' remains for the most part undetermined. Meanwhile, all proceeds from the sale of the old 'home' will go to the Government.
As a consequence of the enforced 'migration', the vast majority of the UK's valuable stocks of wireless microphones, which are essential tools for content production in the creative industries and beyond, will become unusable. If the activities and events listed above are to continue, then all affected equipment will need to be replaced at a stroke. This will cost tens of millions of pounds.
If the Government does not provide adequate funding to cover the costs, then live music, newsgathering, musical theatre and other events including those listed above are likely to become impossible to stage. There is little doubt that companies will go bust, individuals will go bankrupt, employees will be made redundant, and charitable and community organisations will have to divert funds from core services.
The impact will be so severe as a consequence of the fact that the UK's pool of equipment for professional use is generally owned by small specialist firms and individuals that supply to end users when required. These businesses work to very tight margins and either cannot, or will struggle to cover the cost of replacing entire inventories. If they are forced out of business, which is likely under current proposals, then all productions that depend on their equipment and expertise will be under threat.
The funding scheme that Ofcom has put forward is totally inadequate. It is analogous to a compulsory purchase order with little or no compensation. This might be because the regulator is constrained by legislation. Under their proposed terms (1) only equipment that tunes to 8MHz out of the total 120MHz due to be sold would be eligible and (2) amounts provided would be based on an estimate of 'residual value' of equipment rather than what it will cost to replace. If Ofcom's proposals are implemented, many will only receive a fraction of what it will cost to replace their equipment, and the rest will receive nothing at all.
What needs to be done?
The Government must act, if and where Ofcom cannot, to provide what the industry needs. The Government must ensure that (a) the funding package covers all affected equipment, not just some and (b) that funding is based on what it will cost to replace equipment with like-for-like alternatives.
Harvey Goldsmith CBE, legendary music promoter and organiser of Live Aid, said: "Yesterday Save our Sound UK, with PLASA as a key signatory, wrote to Lord Mandelson to raise these crucial issues and urge the Government to intervene. The valuable real estate we are talking about will be sold-off very soon, and there will be no second chance to secure the future of those affected. The time to act is now."
Louise de Winter, National Campaign for the Arts (NCA) Director, added: "We see this as a matter of moral obligation as well as public policy. It would not be right for those affected, which includes charitable organisations, to effectively pay for their own eviction. As this process will generate very significant sums for the Government in auction revenues, it must put aside a fraction of those proceeds to fully compensate those forced to move."
Notes to Editors:
PLASA is the lead professional body for businesses that supply technologies and services to the event, entertainment and installation industries. Operating from offices in Europe and North America, the Association provides business support services to its growing worldwide membership, writes industry standards, leads the development of qualifications and focuses on improving the business practices adopted by the industry. With over 1100 members worldwide, it represents one of the largest member networks in the industry.
PLASA also runs successful media and events divisions and is responsible for the industry-leading magazines Lighting&Sound International, Lighting&Sound America and Protocol and the PLASA Show in London, together with the European and North American regional PLASA Focus events.