Ofcom today announced the details of how Government funding will be made available to the Programme Making and Special Events (PMSE) sector to support its migration from channel 69 to channel 38. This follows the Government's decision last month on the level and nature of this funding, which will contribute to the cost of modifying or purchasing equipment.
Wireless microphones and other wireless equipment that uses channel 69 are being cleared from this part of the 800 MHz band. Countries across Europe are clearing these airwaves to make way for new services like next-generation mobile broadband. Citizens and consumers in the UK stand to significantly benefit from this, especially those that live in the countryside, where the roll-out of broadband and mobile services has been more challenging.
In June last year Ofcom announced a replacement channel for those affected, called channel 38. This will be available to PMSE users on a UK-wide interference-free basis. Ofcom had previously proposed that PMSE users would have protected access to this channel until 2018; however it has since made a commitment to extend this period. And because it operates at lower frequencies, it may offer some benefits over channel 69. These include increased battery life and operational range for equipment.
Some equipment that currently operates in channel 69 can be modified to work in channel 38. Additionally, some equipment can be retuned, without modification, to spectrum called channel 70 that is shared with other users at no cost and without the need for a licence. This could be suitable for non-professional users, such as churches, pubs and community organisations.
However, most equipment will need to be replaced. And on 28 July 2010, the Government announced that it will be providing a contribution towards the cost of new equipment. This will mean those affected will receive roughly 55% of the cost of replacing their equipment.
The age of existing equipment will not change the amount of funding given out. Also, there will be a simpler process for small claims, for equipment with a total replacement value of under £6000. If equipment can be modified at no more than the amount that would have been paid as a contribution to the cost of replacement, the funding scheme will meet the full costs involved. People that are not VAT-registered will receive a 20% adjustment in funding to reflect that they are not able to offset or reclaim VAT on their purchases*.
The full statement published today by Ofcom gives more information on who is eligible for funding, how it will be calculated, and the process for making a claim.
To be eligible for funding, users must have held a channel 69 licence on 2 February 2009 (when Ofcom gave notice that it planned to clear channel 69), or in the 12 months before this date. The only exception to this requirement is unlicensed hiring companies who can prove that they do not require a licence.
Eligible users will only be able to receive funding for working equipment that tunes to channel 69 but not channel 38 (before modification). They must have bought that equipment before 30 June 2009 (when Ofcom confirmed channel 38 as the replacement for channel 69).
The amount of funding people get will depend on the type of equipment they own, when they choose to process their claim, whether they surrender or modify their equipment and whether or not they are VAT-registered.
Eligible users who surrender their equipment will receive roughly 55% of the cost of the equivalent replacement. Funding will be slightly higher the earlier a claim is processed.
This amount is equal to the cost of the new equipment less the discounted remaining value of this equipment in 2018 - the year in which the user should have expected to replace equipment anyway.
PMSE users will have UK-wide primary access to channel 69 to at least 1 July 2012 and in London, Northern Ireland and the north-east of England (the Tyne Tees television region) to at least 1 October 2012. Some of the alternatives are:
First, users will need to register their claims through our appointed PMSE funding scheme administrator, Equiniti Ltd. Users will be asked to provide details of all the channel 69 equipment they own and want to claim for, whether they want to give it up or modify it, when they want the claim to be processed and in how many batches.
Registration will open on 23 September and close at the end of December 2010. The scheme administrator will be available to support PMSE users, through the dedicated website www.pmsefunding.co.uk, or on 0800 011 3617.
Users can visit the website now to find out about the scheme and review the rate card. The rate card shows how much funding is available for each item of relevant channel 69 equipment. PMSE users are invited to check the information included in the rate card and suggest factual corrections to the scheme administrator, but any factual corrections must be received by 2 September. Thereafter, Ofcom will review any suggested corrections and decide whether the rate card should be amended.
When the PMSE funding scheme administrator processes the claim it will check that it meets the criteria of the scheme and then pay out the funding. Users can ask that their claim is processed at any time between January 2011 and December 2012, and it can be done in batches if required. For example, a user may want to claim for half of their channel 69 equipment inventory in July 2011 and the other half in October 2012 after the London Olympics.
It is in users' interest to register. If they do not register, the claim cannot be processed. But registration does not mean the user has to accept any offer of funding or to give up their equipment unless they want to.
Ofcom expects to start paying out funding to those who are eligible from March 2011 onwards. * Ofcom will use the 20% VAT rate which will be introduced on 4 January 2011 as it expects to begin funding payments in March 2011.
NOTES FOR EDITORS
Ofcom firstname.lastname@example.org (+44) (0)300 123 4000