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CofE falls foul of digital switchover

An image of a microphone on fire

You know how you sometimes bookmark news stories and websites that you think ‘I must blog about that’ and then never get round to it? No, may just be me then.

Anyway, here is my oldest ‘must blog about this’ story that I never got around to that stems from 2007. The BBC ran a story in February that year about the Government’s plans to auction off the spectrum of frequencies controlled by Ofcom. They noted that the auction could threaten the use of radio mics in theatres, festivals, concerts and other special events because they were not being ring-fenced in the proposals. Use of such frequencies could either get more expensive (much more expensive), they might cease to function entirely, or, at the very least, if they did work, interference could be a real issue.

I took note of the story because the obvious thing to say from a church perspective is that a lot of churches would be affected as well. I can’t remember a time when I visited a church (even fairly high, traditional churches) where the leader of the service and/or the preacher was not mic’d up. Indeed, more often than not the microphones were radio mics. Churches, in that sense, are obvious users of such technology since as a president of a Holy Communion service or a preacher, you’re going to need a fair bit of freedom of movement that a static microphone is going to find much harder to accomodate.

So what do I read this morning that has prompted me to finally blog about this? Well, the Church of England has got on the case. The Church of England has “joined an industry-led campaign to press Government to provide adequate compensation for affected groups, and parishes are being encouraged to write to their MP to maintain pressure on the subject”… so says the press release.

If it’s not sorted out, then hundreds of churches would face bills to replace or retune equipment rendered useless by the changes. The CofE’s communications department has estimated the total bill at well over a million quid. I checked out the way in which they worked out this figure and I personally reckon it could be much higher since I’d quibble with their estimate that only 1 in 8 churches make use of this kind of technology, but anyway… it will be a big sum of money.

I wish I could say ‘you heard it here first’ but, on this occasion, I never got around to it. More fool me. Nevertheless, churches – pay attention or you could find yourself with a bill and a technology headache that you really don’t want. PCCs – get mobilized and write to your local MP before it is too late.

Comments

Duncan Bell
Reply

Just to say: this won’t affect most churches with wireless microphones – it only affects those on so-called ‘licenced frequencies’. Most churches with four or fewer microphones operate on the deregulated, free of charge frequency band (863 – 865 MHz) and won’t be affected by the changeover.

Hope this helps – I’m not sure the C of E website has made that completely clear!

Hope this helps,

Duncan Bell
Electronic Engineer, Sheffield.

David
Reply

Thanks Duncan, that’s very useful information.

David

Tiffer
Reply

2 of our 8 churches have a wireless amplification system, and one other has a loop. Presumably loops aren’t affected?

David
Reply

Hi Tiffer

I don’t think loops are affected but I think my big point with all this is to be aware of it and get it checked out to ensure you aren’t going to fall foul.

David

David
Reply

Little update with details of an email that came through from the Diocesan Office:

“Ofcom has announced the details of a compensation package for users of licensed wireless microphone systems whose equipment may effectively be made redundant following changes to spectrum allocation due to take effect in 2012.

This is likely to affect large churches and cathedrals currently using Channel 69, which tend to be those using four or more wireless microphones, or those in dense urban areas which have experienced problems with interference in the use of unlicensed channels. Compensation of up to 55 per cent of the cost of replacement equipment or modification costs up to the same amount are likely to be available to such churches if they held a valid Channel 69 licence during 2008. It is, however, vital that such churches register with the scheme administrator between September and December this year, in order to be eligible for the compensation.

For more details on how to register, see Ofcom’s detailed material on the following weblink. If you have any queries regarding this, your PA installation company should be able to help.

http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/consultations/pmse_funding/

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