back to article Church of England takes on Ofcom

The Anglican Church has joined a campaign demanding greater restitution for wireless microphone users, claiming the cost of shifting frequencies will top a million quid. Save Our Sound UK was set up in November by the various groups who want Ofcom to cough up more money to those moved on to make way for digital television. The …


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  1. Jim Coleman

    Well now

    Can't the CofE just use some of the money the government gave them when slavery was abolished, as compensation for the loss of all their slaves? They refused to give the money back at the recent anniversary of the abolition, so it's still sloshing around in their coffers, after all. What better use could they put it to, than to help with the cost of ensuring they can continue to wirelessly put out the word about what a great job they're doing?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      That nugget of information I didn't know. The church realy is a heartless greedy place it seems.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Passeth all understanding

    Surely the answer is just to carry on? UHF mics have a range of about 50m, and I can't see the signal escaping far from a traditionally built church...

    AC, obviously :-)

    1. heyrick Silver badge

      Passeth and receiveth

      I don't think the problem is what signal goes out (I'd be surprised if a generic radiomic can make it through the walls *and* across the graveyard), it is more likely to be a concern as to what the receiver would be receiving in place of the radiomic signal.

  3. Anonymous Coward

    but, but...

    Surely if the Lord wanted us to hear His word, he'd give His ministers big loud voices?

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Ian Paisley

      That is all.

  4. Magnethead

    To save them the trouble...

    why not simply scrap the church and sell off all their assets to help the country recover from the recession? They must have some prime real estate that plenty of property developers would be more than happy to snap up (we do still have some property developers, don't we?).

    Oh, hang on. Then what do we do with all those useless priests? I need to re-think this...

    1. Vigilant Mouse

      Useless priests?

      I'm a priest.

      And I work in the IT industry. (No, this is not a logical impossibility, but I suppose it might render me doubly useless.)

      And I have a loud voice (no-one has yet dropped off in one of my sermons.)

      It's still a good idea to have the microphones. For example:

      1. They are an integral part of the loop system for people with hearing aids.

      2. They allow us to do things in one part of the church (or hall, or grounds) and be heard in other parts - useful (for example) when interring ashes in the rain but not all the older people want to stand in the downpour.

      And anyway, priests aren't the only people who speak in church. Ordinary people read lessons, lead prayers, make announcements, tell stories, sing..... they haven't all got loud voices.

      Would you rather we paid a lot of money for new microphones, or sent a larger donation to help out in Haiti?

    2. Mike Howell

      I'm 'enry the VIII I am!

      I belive that Good King Hal may have already had a go at this! That's how we ended up with the Church of England.

  5. John Robson Silver badge

    Capital Depreciation Periods are the problem

    OfCom is assuming 3-5 years, churches generally have lightly used mics and therefore expect them to last 15+ years.

    It's a case of all cars must be scrapped, we reckon on replacing our car every year, so we'll recompense everyone (who has bought and registered a car within the last year)

    1. The Flying Dutchman

      Ofcom is assuming 3-5 years...

      ... but in practice, 10-20 years would be more appropriate.

      A cheap chinese 80 quid wireless set might not even last 3 years. But those wireless users who require quality and reliability (performers, sound hire companies) generally use high spec gear made by the likes of Sennheiser and Beyer. Said gear is costly but can be expected to last, and indeed it does. I've seen 20 year old Sennheiser electret "bugs" (the ones with the metal-cased belt pack) still being pressed into regular daily service in TV production and live performances. Engineers hang on to them because they sound lovely, and consider them irreplaceable.

      I know, one wouldn't want to be seen dead with a cellphone that's more than 3 years old. But pro audio gear != consumer gadgets. People still use 50-year-old microphones fer chrissake.

    2. Verne

      Capital Depreciation Periods are the problem?

      Ofcom have been told over and over again that radio mics are usually depreciated over a lot longer periods than 5 years given the initial outlay and high quality equipment. I am sure that many were stung by Ofcom who had originally had said Channel 69 would stay only to go back on this and shift everyone to Channel 38.

      Whilst one hopes there will be some benefit for the country by moving things around the lack of clarity with what, where and when has been appalling to say the least.

      What does not get mentioned a lot these days is that the sale of the cleared spectrum has come about by the switch over to digital television which, in case you haven't noticed, we are paying for by charge on our TV licence. Win - win situation for Ofcom whilst a lot of other people will have to pay for it.

      If you are replacing your car every year I think you must be buying the wrong car!

  6. LinkOfHyrule

    They don't need mics

    The average church congregation these days is so small that they can all fit on the front row so all the preacher person (whatever they are called) needs to do to be heard is speak at a normal volume.

    Maybe even with that being the case, they would like to retain the mics anyway just so that they can connect it up to a vocoder to do a Sunday service in the style of Sparky the magic piano or something?

    Mines the one with the good book in the pocket

    1. Nigel Titley


      The problem is that many of the congregation these days is elderly and deaf. The sound system is mainly used to drive the current loop that links into their hearing aids. Otherwise most churches could manage without a sound system at all, just like they used to, even when they were full.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Assets and "useless priests"

    You would probably find that a large number of assets are listed buildings leaving their new uses somewhat restricted by law (and their legally required upkeep a liability for new owners).

    Regarding 'useless priests' - you my well find that a fair number of priests are non-stipendary (no salary) so no saving there. In addition, many have come from other 'useless jobs' such as teaching; sciences; banking (ahem) and would find jobs quite easily (although there are exceptions)

    Disclaimer: I am not; nor have I ever been a priest. I do however attend a church

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Yes I was a priest....

      And I'd like to apply for your childcare position....

      Cant see that going well!

      Thats not "Ill get my coat", its a priest putting on a flasher mac.

  8. Absent


    Most churches were built in the days before microphones, Christianity is it's by nature hung up on the past. What's the problem? Go back to the days before microphones, project using your God given voice.

  9. Anonymous Coward

    I'm sorry but....

    ..with all this talk of radio interference in churches just puts the picture in my mind of our Priestliness standing ready to preach at midnight mass when out of the speakers pours the joyous tones of some late night Euro Porn.

    The Islamic call to prayer could be even more amusing.

    AC for obvious reasons. I don't want the Inquisition knocking on my door.

  10. Flugal

    Religion v Ofcom

    Battle of two evils.

  11. Mr Bear

    It's not the mics...

    It's the receivers that are the problem. They'll be picking up Kerrang! Radio or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Back to the Sewer or some home shopping channel.

  12. Anonymous Coward

    $1 million?

    Well, I guess if you had a million churches and each had to stump up a cost of $1 then that would be right.

    If you have a large number of any organisations even with a modest contribution each, you're going to come up with a pretty big figure that means exactly nothing in real terms.

    Come on though, most of these churches are likely to be using illegal equipment. It's kinda like thieves complaining that breaking into houses has just become illegal, except in this case, it was already against the law....

    1. Andy Haynes

      Audio Pro

      As an engineer specialising in Church audio, I would disagree with the "using illegal equipment" statement - every church I have visited over the last 2 years has had either a vintage VHF system (legal but pretty poor quality now), a channel 70 UHF system (legal) or have a licensed channel 69 system. I don't see churches using cheap, sub-£100 systems anywhere as they are useless for anything beyond karaoke. On the other hand I have seen interference on these systems from illegal TV transmitters causing problems.

      Since the law on Induction Loops changed, every church is tested to meet the standards and hence all of the "illegal" kit has long gone.

      As to the cost, the cheapest, half-decent UHF system you can buy currently is about £180, the good ones are closer to £450. Doesn't take long to get a £million.

  13. Luther Blissett

    Happy clappyism

    The problem is that once upon a time the Church relied on the power of their organs to propagate musically the message (coded - natch) of a simple but heart-strirring communal solidarity. (You don't really think the old hymns were written like that just because someone thought they were the greatest thing since music was invented, or because puritanism was in fashion?), Today, with the advent of happy-clappyism, their organs have fallen by the wayside, so of course they need technological support. Plus: semiotically today's message is one of cacophonous individualism - and the Devil take the hindmost. What goes around comes around. Ofcom's position on compensating current users is derisory - why should an association apply commercial accounting practices on the depreciation of assets when there is never any intention to replace the assets on that basis? It is like criticising an apple for not being an orange.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Slash careface

    If God had meant us to be religious, he'd have given us brain damage.

  15. JaitcH
    Thumb Up

    The solution is cheapr and simple

    (1) Vote Conservative and let them kill off OFCOM;

    (2) Ignore the frequency change (by far the best option);

    (3) Use Bluetooth mic links ($9 a pair of units in HongKong with a range of 10 feet);

    (4) Use WiFi mic links (Multi-channel receiver and a single mic - $37 range is WiFi).

    Of course the last two options are legally licence free.

  16. Anonymous Coward

    Why not just...

    ... buy a loud hailer?

    (See avatar for details!)

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Church vs Musicals

    " They [Anglican churches] might not be as high-profile as a West End show, but they consider themselves equally important. "

    I'm sure it's not just religious people who see that there's more cultural value* in a church service than in a Ben Elton script tacked onto a few jukebox hits...?

    * As in, you may not agree that it's right or that there's a god, but that's a large chunk of the history of England, idioms of English and the like tied into it.

  18. Wommit


    I was quite appalled at the ignorance shown by a lot of the commentators here. While the C of E is a large religious organisation, it is not, by any means, the only one. Most of the 'nonconformist churches own their own place of worship. So do you advocate selling of their privately owned property? How about if we sell your home and car to raise a few quid. I'm sure that the Haitians could really do with a bit more cash right now.

    As for the priests being useless, on the whole they have always done far more good than harm. "Priest abuses Child" is a guaranteed headline, "Priest sits for 20 hours with dying widow" or "Lay preacher talks teenager out of suicide, shows that life does have meaning" doesn't even make it to page 10 of the Metro. Priests, fathers, ministers, vicars, etc. do a huge amount of social support work that needs to be done but which is ignored or trivialised by those who have never seen the impact of such support, or the devastation wreaked on a family by the lack of it.

    Whatever the commentators here think of the people who attend these churches (and mine certainly needs more than the front row of seats, being nearly full every week), Most church goers and congregations tend to think of others and give much more help to non-members than to themselves. Far different from the attitudes shown in the current comments.

    Said my bit now bring on the flames.

  19. Anonymous Coward

    Bollox - let them just use the taxes that they don't pay

    nuff said

  20. John Chadwick

    Small congregations, and anyway it ain't just the Anglicans.

    Many, many religious and charitable organisations use these facilities, so you may think the Anglican's are not deserving, that's up to you. It also isn't about cheap Chinese microphones either, you still have to have a receiver(s) and PA system on the other end, which also come int to the equation. We use mics because we have deaf people (not all age related) in our congregation, and we also include as many people as we can in the service, not just those with loud voices.

    So Ofcom, it isn't just the Anglicans, its all Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, etc. places of worship, plus youth clubs (usually less well off than churches), amateur sports clubs and so on.

    As to slavery funds sloshing around in Anglican coffers, don't be silly, that went years ago, very few established churches have deep pockets, even in well attended parishes, a percentage of Christian church money goes to good deeds anyway, so I suspect any restitution has been paid back to the communities affected in the form of Hospitals, Schools and Social Services, there is a finite amount of money available to any organisation, if you pay restitution with one hand, then you take away aid with the other, or hadn't you figured that one out.

  21. Magnus Ramage

    Other uses for microphones

    At my church, the service is usually recorded to CD for those who are unable to attend due to illness etc. Microphones are absolutely vital as part of that process, as well as the loop issue mentioned by several others. I don't know what kind of microphone is used, but certainly wireless - necessary unless you want to tether the minister to their pulpit.

    In the days before microphones became common in churches, a much smaller proportion of people lived long enough to develop significant hearing loss (and yes, the church attracted a wider age range).

    Agree with those who observe that Anglicanism is not the only religious body in this country, so the issue about slavery restitution is beside the point. However, the Anglicans do have a privileged place in the UK (established church in England, seats in the House of Lords etc), so their voice counts for quite a bit. They don't appear to be asking just for their own churches, from the tone of the press release, though their focus is on their own:

    I enjoyed the observation that the devil is in the detail. Quite.

  22. Sooty

    why wireless?

    It's been a while since i've been to church (why do parents always insist of forcing you as a child) but when i did microphones were used extensively, but they were all wired. A couple of lecterns and a detachable microphone on a stand with a long wire for if the priest fancied wandering about a bit.

    Wireless may be slightly more convenient, but it's hardly a necessity, it's not like the priest is going to be breaking into a dance routine.

  23. Chris Evans

    Problem not just Churchs & Churchs aren't all like that

    This affects many organisations schools, charities, village halls, amateur productions etc.

    Sooty: Many churches no longer have pulpits, I've not seen anyone yet break into a song and dance routine but I think you'd be surprised if you came to our church which meets in School sports hall!

  24. markp 1

    It's not just that simple, or cheap :(

    Here's a personal totting-up for you, then...

    I don't work in a church, but I do work at an institution with a chapel attached, so that'll have to do. We also have a more general use lecture hall, which has proper built-in radio mic equipment. Between the chapel and random other places around the site, there's a few other instances of similar but more limited and mobile equipment. As it happens, before reading this I've been online today looking for some spare parts because one of the cheaper bits (an all-in-one clip-on mic) has bought the farm. That alone is sixty quid. We don't buy crap - but it's not top end either. However, I'd certainly rate its lifetime in decades.

    The built in rigs, which we have two of, are over FIVE HUNDRED POUNDS (for the mic, transmitter, receiver, power supply, cabling... so call it £450 for the bits we'd have to change). God only knows how much the other bits are, but I'd reckon at least a hundred each for five or six items, and they'd be total losses as the transmitters are built into the handheld mics. We can ill afford replacing any equipment that we don't need to; we've spent several grand in the last few days that we weren't expecting to have to do, and it's pretty much crippled our AV budget for much of the rest of the year. So what do we do here?

    What we will likely do is just keep on using it blindly, as we have the problem-turned-benefit of industrial strength walls that are basically faraday cages. Hardly anything gets in or out. For the first time ever, that's a bonus. That or play with the frequency adjuster until it's up on the stops and most of the new interference disappears.

    (I'm hoping we're actually dodging the bullet, as the stated frequency range is 830 to 866mhz... but as 855 is in the middle of that, and is what at least one of the units defaults to, I'm not so sure)

    Now if we can take at least another thousand similarly medium-small cheese, up and coming but eternally cash strapped - and more so for the credit crunch and all the mucking-about with our usual funding - institutions around the country...... well that's easily a cool million without even touching a "real" church.

    If we assume each church and it's hall has some of the cheaper but perfectly good quality items we have (a couple at maybe £100 a throw), then that's still a considerable bill. There's a LOT of churches out there.

    .... and DO, DO PLEASE remember that this equipment isn't just used for services. Any community event that goes on in the church hall and its grounds (and one local to me of which I'm not even a congregation member - my faith lapsed a while back - hosts a great many events which I occasionally attend) will be affected.

    All this so we can have yet more, ever more niche TV and radio channels. There's only so many that an island of 60 million can viably support, and only so much choice that any one person needs in this regard. For everything else, there's maste..... er, the internet. Or the rental shop.

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