The aim of the British Entertainment Industry Radio Group (BIERG) is to ensure everyone involved in Programme Making and Special Events (PMSE) has continued access to interference-free radio spectrum – in terms of both quantity and quality.

With ongoing financial input from companies, industry organisations and individuals, BEIRG has engaged with the UK Government, MPs, Ofcom, the European Commission and other stakeholders since it foundation in 2004, to ensure that the PMSE sector has a voice in the face of potentially damaging spectrum management policies.

BeirgEarly campaigning and political lobbying successfully raised awareness in Parliament, with help from 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 also successfully galvanised 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 announced that it would clear 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 UK 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 per cent 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 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 they did not imagine that, years later, the group would still be going strong, still fighting for the industry, and about to enter another phase of its existence. As founder John Turnock said recently, ‘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 in 2006, the members of the Steering Group may have changed slightly, but the desire to represent the many different sectors of the industry that make up the PMSE user base remains strong. Over the past few years original members of the group Ron Bonner (Plasa) and Peter Roberts (Society of London Theatre – SOLT) have retired, and the industry suffered the loss of Alan March, a much-loved figure 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. 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 & 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 supporters.

‘Plasa has supported BEIRG from the beginning and, on behalf of its 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,’ says Plasa MD, Peter Heath. ‘Now is absolutely the right time to formalise that relationship with more direct input from us and our colleagues at ABTT.’

‘We have been a supporter of BEIRG’s work for a long time,’ adds ABTT Chief Executive, Robin Townley. ‘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 light appears at the end of the Covid-19 tunnel, BEIRG hits 2021 with a new logo and new website, and continued determination to ensure that the UK entertainment industry maintains its position as a world leader.


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