Mountain rescue radios ? Storm in a teacup?

Oct 27: Mountain rescue radios ? Storm in a teacup?by Jack Geldard – Editor – UKC ?What? Mountain rescue teams willhave to pay £260,000 a year for radio use! I´m outraged!? Is a common response to the currentnews story surrounding mountain rescue radios, but is that actuallythe case? In reality, Mountain Rescue Teams (MRT)pay nothing for their radio spectrum use.Under a new pricing schemecurrently under consultation by Ofcom,that charge will change to the sum total of… £0 .That´s nothing, zilch, zip, diddly-squat.So what´sthe problem?There isn´t one. Radio fees are complex and Ofcom, justlike all government quangos, have wrapped them up in a spaghettibowl of language noodles.So let´s see if we can untangle themess. Ofcom sets charges forradiospectrum use.The radio channels used by MRT´s are assigned to, andpaid for by, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA)which is an executive agency of the Department for Transport.TheMCA is funded by general taxation.There are no plans to changethis. So the charges for MRT´s radio use are simply passed from one government agency (MCA) to another (Ofcom). Simple enough? Where it gets morecomplex, is with the Royal National Lifeboats Institution (RNLI). Currently the RNLI has some free spectrum use (in the same way thatMRTs do – specifically for their search and rescue operations) buthas to pay for other parts of its radio usage, just like many otherusers.These other parts will be affected by a pricing change,although Ofcom estimates that the RNLI´s annual fee will actually bereduced. RNLI media relations manager DanielleRush is quoted on Walesonline as saying: ?The RNLI currently pays £40,000in licence fees annually to Ofcom for the use of radio channels inour station/boathouse radios, lifeguard radios, launching vehiclesand pager system? According to the Ofcom website: ?TheRNLI may see its charges fall as aresult of our proposal to offer a single, lower cost licence formultiple users……We estimate that, based on theRNLI´s usage, its fee under the new arrangements would be less than£20,000.?I spoke to Meleri Thomas atOfcom, who stated:?Search and rescue teams will notbe affected by the proposals for new fees.? The only agency that could be affected by a change in fees is the MCA, and it is unlikely that they would set a new precedent and impose any charges on search and rescue teams such as MRT´s. The reasoning behind Ofcom´s change of pricing is to try and limit spectrum use (and possibly increase revenue) in the maritime and aeronautical sectors, of which the mountain rescue is a tiny fraction.Whilst mountain rescue teams do facemany difficulties, both with funding and with real dangers on thehillside, increased radio charges are, according to Ofcom, not one of them.