Since it was founded in 2004, and following the introduction of the Steering Group in 2006, BEIRG (British Entertainment Industry Radio Group) has campaigned to ensure everyone involved in PMSE (Programme Making and Special Events) has continued access to sufficient quantity and quality of interference-free spectrum.
With ongoing financial input from companies, industry organisations and individuals, BEIRG has continued to engage with government, MPs, Ofcom, the European Commission and other stakeholders, to ensure that the PMSE sector has a voice in the face of potentially damaging spectrum management policies.
To date, BEIRG has accomplished several key achievements. Its early campaigning and political lobbying successfully raised awareness in Parliament, with help from some influential MPs, including Peter Luff when he was Chair of the Business select Committee. This led to a significant shift in Ofcom’s approach to managing the ‘Digital Dividend’, effectively saving the PMSE sector from market failure through careful licensing and protected access, agreed in December 2007.
BEIRG alvanised different sectors of the industry behind the PMSE Pro User Group to successfully deliver a more unified voice. An initial announcement from Ofcom of their intention to clear “the 800MHz band” in the form of 806MHz to 854MHz (TV channels 63 to 68), for Mobile Broadband was greeted with a mixed reaction by the PMSE users at the time. Since this spared the UK PMSE users much loved “Ch.69” many users were initially unconcerned. A few months later however Ofcom made a new announcement that it would in fact be clearing a much larger band from 790MHz to 862MHz, all the way from Ch.61 to Ch.69.
Faced with the possibility of no guaranteed quality spectrum allocation after Ofcom cleared Channel 69 to sell alongside the rest of the 800MHz band for mobile broadband, BEIRG’s persistence led to the industry securing a like-for-like replacement for Channel 69. Channel 38 was announced as a UK-wide exclusive channel for PMSE users in June 2009.
Following this announcement BEIRG launched a high-profile campaign, Save Our Sound UK, to encourage the government into delivering compensation for PMSE equipment lost through the move to Channel 38. Save Our Sound UK was a banner campaign that united the views of over 20 organisations and industry bodies from all sectors of the entertainment industry. This culminated in securing a commitment from the UK government to compensate users with 55% of the purchase price of their Channel 69 equipment.
More recently BEIRG’s work and long-standing co-operation with Ofcom and the Government led to another compensation package being approved and initiated with the clearance of 700MHz for yet more mobile broadband services. When John Turnock, Brian Clarke, Kishore Patel and the other pioneers set up BEIRG in 2004 they could never have imagined that years later, the group would still be going strong, still fighting for the industry, and about to enter another phase of its illustrious existence. As founder John Turnock said: “I wanted to roll a snowball down the hill and see how big it would become. Well, it’s now a glacier.”
Since it was formed, the members of the Steering Group may have changed slightly, but the desire to represent the many different sectors of the industry which together make up the PMSE user base remains as strong as ever. Over the past few years original members of the group Ron Bonner (PLASA) and Peter Roberts (SOLT) have retired, and as many in the industry will know, we suffered the sad loss of Alan March, a much-loved figure within the industry, and a driving force behind BEIRG’s success.
At the end of 2020 the Steering Group was bolstered with the return to the group of industry veteran John Steven, who had served on the Steering Group from 2006 until 2015, Jonathan Edwards from Terry Tew Sound & Light, and Phillip Brown from SOLT (Society of London Theatre). Familiar industry faces and BEIRG veterans Duncan Bell, Tuomo Tolonen and Andy Lillywhite remain steadfast in their drive on the steering group, and Anna Wolffe of Ranelagh provides un-wavering support and expert strategic political guidance as she has done for nearly ten years.
The group has expanded with representation from PLASA (Professional Lighting and Sound Association), who were closely involved with the Steering Group in the beginning of the political lobbying process and have retained close ties ever since, and ABTT (Association of British Theatre Technicians) who have also been major BEIRG supporters.
Commenting on the new relationship, PLASA Managing Director Peter Heath stated: “PLASA has supported BEIRG from the beginning and on behalf of PLASA members would like to recognise the significant contribution BEIRG has made in ensuring the Live Events industry’s continued access to spectrum over many years. Now is absolutely the right time to formalise that relationship with more direct input from us and our colleagues at ABTT.”
Robin Townley, Chief Executive at ABTT added, “We have been a supporter of BEIRG’s work for a long time. We are delighted to be expanding that partnership, and look forward to growing the support and recognition for BEIRG’s work through close collaboration with our members and partners.”
As we begin to see light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel, BEIRG will push into 2021 with a new logo, new website, but the same determination to ensure that the UK Entertainment Industry has access to enough quantity and quality of spectrum to maintain its position as a world leader. Some things may have changed, some challenges may have been met, but there are still many spectrum hurdles to overcome.