In its latest Digital Dividend Review consultation, published on 31 July, Ofcom proposed that a single company should co-ordinate the frequencies for wireless cameras and microphones used on location and during outside broadcasts and live events.
The licence would be awarded by way of a beauty contest, with the winner performing a similar function to JFMG (Joint Frequency Management Group), the company that currently oversees the frequencies.
The difference between the proposed new set-up and the old one is that this new company would be self-financing and could potentially turn a profit. JFMG currently has a fixed price contract with Ofcom that is not linked to sales.
JFMG's current mode of operation will become redundant if the proposal becomes a reality, but operations manager Amanda Houchen believes that, so far, the plan makes good sense.
“Ofcom's proposals seem to guarantee good protection for the PMSE [programme-making and special events] industry, both in the way the beauty contest selection criteria and the band manager licence terms and conditions have been put together,” she said. “They should be encouraged by Ofcom's approach.”
The band manager would pay an annual fee for spectrum and earn revenue by charging customers for access. Regulation would ensure that it provided a fair service.
Applications would be judged on a company's understanding of the market, its effective use of spectrum and its technical, financial and managerial capacity.
JFMG has not confirmed if it will apply.
This first consultation closes on 16 October. Ofcom will publish a second this winter, detailing how the band manager will authorise usage and the level of the annual charges.
The winner of the PMSE band manager licence will be named in autumn 2009 and start operating in spring 2010.