February 20, 2007

OFCOM: Capitalism at its stoopidest


They lurve ‘market forces’. They like auctioning off radio spectrum to the highest bidder and “letting the market decide”. It doesn’t quite work like that, of course. If Rupert Murdoch wanted to launch an unprofitable right-wing opinion station, he could. And he could outbid anyone. But OFCOM wouldn’t care that much, because “the market” would have decided.

Well now they’ve outshone themselves.

They want to auction off the spectrum currently used by those nasty socialist theatre performers and broadcasters. They tend not to make a profit, so rather than bleed them dry, OFCOM’s just going to make life really hard for them.

You see, radio microphones use the spectrum inbetween other channels. They don’t take up much space, but OFCOM doesn’t mind that, because they’re just worried that the commies are getting away with something for free.

They’d quite like to auction that small bit of space off to mobile phone companies or broadcasters. Even though it would make virtually every theatre production in the country practically unworkable.

They’ve already said they won’t ring-fence any space for High Definition TV services on Freeview. Instead we’ll have to pay – you guessed it – Rupert Murdoch for the privilege of shiny picture quality on our TV sets.

OFCOM’s policy on “letting the market decide” is complete madness. Hopefully even they’ll see sense on this one and realise that theatre companies aren’t going to pay millions of pounds for a tiny bit of the radio spectrum.

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  1. B4L

    > OFCOM’s policy on “letting the market decide” is complete madness.

    Hmm, I don’t see how asking politicians/bureaucrats to decide is necessarily more efficient. If Rupert Murdoch enjoys monopoly power (as a result of the feebleness of political power), how’s that a criticism of markets?
    Also, think what happened with the 3G licenses: the bidding system was sufficiently cunningly-contrived that vastly more revenue was raised than: (a) politicians could possibly have known to ask for, if they were in control, and (b) companies would have admitted that they were prepared to pay. Surely the best thing to do is decide upon bidding rules (including ownership limits; requirements upon winning bidders; etc.) then let the bidding run its course.

    21 Feb 2007, 00:19

  2. These “radio mics” are limited in range but mostly used within a limited area. E.g. within a theatre. I wonder whether the technology used is a bit of an ananchronism. Perhaps WiFi or bluetooth would be more appropriate.

    Is Ofcom planning to auction off the frequencies used for them? Perhaps that would break international agreements, as they use frequencies in the licence-free bands?
    Will we be seeing someday PAYG pricing applied to wireless mice and keyboards?

    Congestion is becoming a problem, at least with Wi-Fi, in office buildings.

    21 Feb 2007, 09:29

  3. I suppose
    “a bit of an ananchronism”
    should have been

    21 Feb 2007, 09:34

  4. George, do you work in IT sales by any chance? If something has been in use for a while it doesn’t mean it is obsolete! Radio mics are used in every large theatre, lecture hall, auction house (and many smaller ones); are you suggesting that, just because Bluetooth is available, all these institutions should sell thousands of pounds worth of perfectly serviceable equipment and restock using the latest (more expensive) technology?

    21 Feb 2007, 10:17

  5. No I don’t work in sales.

    But there’s is a discrepancy when some frequencies are rationed by price and some are a free-for-all. People who don’t mind the interference will start to migrate to the free-for-all. Those currently exploiting the free-for-all will start thinking up stories to keep newbies out.

    21 Feb 2007, 11:48

  6. Rupert Murdoch could launch a right wing talk station. But he wouldnt unless it was commercially viable. That is how markets work. So yeah, the market does decide

    21 Feb 2007, 15:50

  7. Sky News (owner=Rupert Murdoch) is thought to be largely loss-making.

    21 Feb 2007, 18:08

  8. There’s radio as in radio waves and radio as in radio stations.

    The point about Murdoch and markets is that the customers for commericial radio are the people who control the advertising spend. Is it any wonder that commecial radio has a pro-business, right-wing bias?

    It’s all about giving the customers, the advertisers, what they want to hear.

    What exactly was that famous comment about the job of newspapers being to repeat the prejudices of their proprietors as often as the the advertisers would put with?

    21 Feb 2007, 21:27

  9. I’ve shifted my opinion on this. I expect that the annual price of the spectrum needed for radio mics won’t be much and the answer in the long run, is digital mics. OFCOM should use the money it’s going to get from the telecom companies to pay for the new technology. The same should apply to Freeview. The new technology for that shouldn’t come out of the BBC licence fee and the pockets of OAPs forced to buy set top boxes.

    As for theatre performers and broadcasters being socialist? Christopher Doidge has been reading too much Murdoch nonsense.

    22 Feb 2007, 10:00

  10. It was sarcasm…

    22 Feb 2007, 10:31

  11. Oh you have to forgive, I sold my sense of sarcasm years ago.

    22 Feb 2007, 11:52

  12. Roger Lindley

    The last time I looked,there were only 3 frequencies in the VHF band and 3 in the UHF band that were (are) licence-exempt. So most theatres and “events” should already be paying licences to use radio mics on the other frequencies (otherwise they would only have 6 frequencies to play with and neighbouring theatres would interfere with each other).
    However, if mobile phone companies are allowed to bid for this spectrum, the government would get millions more for it. Like you say, capitalism at its stoopidest. What next, auctioning off the frequencies that the emergency services use?

    “the answer in the long run, is digital mics. OFCOM should use the money it’s going to get from the telecom companies to pay for the new technology”
    In your dreams, George. It’ll be the punters, as usual.

    On a slightly more positive note, anybody can currently get BBC HD with a dish and a free-to-air HD receiver, without a penny going anywhere near Mr Murdoch.
    OK wise guy, yes you need a HD tv set as well (or DVB-s card for your PC)

    23 Feb 2007, 13:12

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