wireless microphones, white space

White Space: Performing Arts and Wireless Microphones

Background on White Space Advocacy

Nonprofit performing arts organizations rely on wireless technology for unrestricted on-stage movement, to create sophisticated sound, and for backstage communications for stagehands. This technology operates within the “white space” radio frequencies between TV broadcast channels.

The Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 required the FCC to auction off TV broadcast spectrum to wireless broadband developers to help offset the federal deficit. In this auction, slated to begin spring 2016, the FCC will ‘repack’ or reorganize the broadcast spectrum which will result in wireless microphones and technologies having to move–once again–to another area of the broadcast spectrum. The FCC had previously required wireless entities to move in the spectrum in 2010. The move will result in performing arts organizations having to pay for the costly replacement of sound and other wireless equipment.

An August 2015 FCC proceeding ruled that unlicensed wireless microphones would not be able to access a geo-location database for interference protection from white space devices. This database would allow users to register the frequencies on which their wireless devices were operating. That same proceeding also eliminated the two safe-haven channels that had been set aside for wireless microphones, and the proceeding outlined the process for wireless microphones to move to new spectrum following the auction in 2016.

PAA encourages the Commission to ensure it protects existing services, including wireless microphones used in the performing arts and educational facilities.

Please see the Issue Brief (to the left) for additional information and the most recent updates on this topic. 

What's at Stake

It is essential that the FCC offer interference protection to performing arts entities since they provide valuable public services. Congress should urge the FCC to restore access to a reliable geo-location database and preserve nonprofit performing arts, education, and media organizations’ financial investments in technical equipment.

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What We're Asking For Right Now

Congress should urge the FCC to:

  • Provide professional wireless capability, with interference protection that works successfully, to the performing arts and community media sector.
  • Restore access to a reliable geo-location database
  • Offer some form of interference protection to performing arts entities.

We urge Congress to:

  • Recognize the investment that organizations in the performing arts, education, and media community have made in wireless microphones.
  • Consider the financial burden already borne by performing arts, education, and media organizations, and allow these wireless microphone users the ability to use current equipment as long as possible.
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Recent Activity

Wireless Microphones Update

PAA participates in the Performing Arts Wireless Microphone Working Group which asked its member organizations to prepare comments to submit to the FCC urging the protection of wireless microphones used in the performing arts.

The FCC has two open proceedings affecting wireless microphone operations. One proposes that entities using fewer than 50 microphones on a regular basis, would not be able to register in a geo-location database which provides interference protection. In the other proceeding, the FCC is considering a longer-term home for wireless microphones in a different area of the broadcast spectrum. Such a move in the spectrum would mean arts organizations would have to purchase expensive new equipment.

Over 60 letters were sent to the FCC and posted on its website urging interference protection for wireless microphones in the performing arts as well as reimbursement if new equipment needs to be purchased. Reply comments in these two proceedings  were due by February 25. Representatives Louise Slaughter (D-NY) and Leonard Lance (R-NJ), the co-chairs of the Congressional Arts Caucus, agreed to take the lead on a Congressional sign-on letter which arts advocates circulated on Arts Advocacy Day, urging the FCC to protect wireless microphones.

Explanation of New FCC Rules for Part 74 License Eligibility

This summer, the FCC released its Order expanding eligibility for Part 74 licenses to users of wireless microphones, including performing arts venues. While the order bears some good news for the performing arts, it is important to know that change is coming after the spectrum incentive auctions.

PAA and the Performing Arts Wireless Microphone Working Group have provided this analysis and summary of the FCC’s Order explaining the changes ahead and detailing how you can apply for a license now.

NPRM Issued for Wireless Microphones

The FCC issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) concerning the long-term needs of wireless microphone users. The FCC acknowledges that “wireless microphones enhance event productions in a variety of settings – including theaters and music venues, film studios, conventions…” and the performing arts field knows the importance of quality wireless transmissions for backstage communications systems and microphones onstage. In this NPRM, the FCC will explore how best to accommodate the different wireless microphone users’ needs in the future in light of the upcoming spectrum incentive auction. You can read more about the NPRM here.

Stay tuned to PAA for updates on the rulemaking process.

FCC Adopts Rules Expanding Part 74 License Eligibility

At an Open Meeting on May 15, the FCC adopted rules expanding Part 74 license eligibility to include sound companies and venues regularly using at least 50 wireless microphones. The rules are intended to ensure interference protection and high quality sound for large events.

After the auction, the Commission anticipates there will be one channel in each area which would be available for shared use by wireless microphones and TV white space devices.  PAA continues to advocate for two safe-haven channels of spectrum for wireless microphones to protect against interference, as well as eligibility for performing arts venues using at least 25 microphones to obtain a license from the FCC. Click here to read the ex parte letter PAA sent to the FCC on May 7. Stay tuned for more details after the rules are published.

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