City News

Businesses blindsided by microphone switchover


Businesses in the inner city have been shocked to learn that they are no longer able to use their old wireless microphones in the New Year.

The Australian Media and Communications Authority (ACMA) have come under fire for not informing those affected properly, despite having made the announcement under the Labor Government in 2010.

Microphones that operate in the old standard range of 694-820 MHz (megahertz) will no longer be fully operational and any business that continues to use them will be breaking the law.

The changes come as part of the digital television switchover but have been far less publicised than the redundancy of analogue frequencies.

A spokesperson from ACMA said that the project has been well managed and the public well informed.

“Since 2010 we have worked with the government on major projects to clear the airwaves for better mobile broadband. This has included switching off analog television services and switching on digital televion services,” she said.

“Our supportive role is primarily educational and thus we have created a wireless mic hub on our website.”

City of Sydney Councillor and owner of the successful inner-city Vivo Café, Angela Vithoulkas says it hasn’t been enough and that even she was caught off guard by the changeover.

“It certainly came as news to me when the person repairing my wireless microphone said it would not work after January 1, 2015,” she said.

“I believe that the Government has overlooked the importance of letting people know about these changes.”

All microphones and audio equipment that operate in the range between 694-820 megahertz (Mhz) will now be directly competing with the 4G network and are likely to experience interference. Anyone who is found to be using such equipment could face fines of up to $5,000.

It has been estimated that the total national cost of upgrading microphones since 2010 is over $200 million but the ACMA has ruled out any subsidies for the switchover.

The spokesperson for the ACMA defended the decision not to assist with the costs of any replacements needed for businesses and community groups.

“Wireless microphones operate under ‘class licensing’ arrangements. This means they can use the available spectrum, free of charge, within a designated frequency range on the condition that they do not cause interference to other services. As such, compensation is not available to users of wireless microphones,” she said.

This has come as little consolation to community groups such as churches or charities could be made to pay for thousands of dollars’ worth of new equipment that is compliant with the new wavebands.

When asked about their leniency on the enforcement of fines in the early period, the ACMA told City Hub that they know that some people were still confused.

“We have a graduated compliance approach,” the spokesperson said.

“We understand that people want to do the right thing and we will work with them to comply. In our experience that is usually the end of the matter. If after this first step the user continues in breach, then the ACMA will consider whether or not to escalate the matter.”

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