Will Thursday's FCC Rulings Change Quality of Broadway Sound?

News   Will Thursday's FCC Rulings Change Quality of Broadway Sound?
 
The Federal Communications Commission voted Aug. 6 to adopt new rules intended to address the growing demand for frequencies and airwaves in the ever-expanding world of mobile phones. The new rules, however, could negatively impact the sound of cordless microphones used on Broadway.

Assigning less desirable frequencies could result in static, according to Bloomberg Business, which reports an FCC auction in 2010 required many Broadway theatres to purchase new microphones when the cordless mics "were relocated on the airwave spectrum." Large shows like Wicked or The Lion King utilize more than 80 wireless mics at a cost of over $1,000 apiece.

In an Aug. 6 press release, The Federal Communications Commission said the report and order it had adopted "is designed to allow for more robust unlicensed use and to promote spectral efficiency in the 600 MHz band."

"We mainly use the 500 and 600 MHz portions of the spectrum, which is why this auction has the potential to be devastating to our users," Tom Ferrugia, director of Government Relations for The Broadway League, told Playbill.com.

Among the new rules are ones that "permit more robust and efficient operation of fixed and personal/portable white space devices in television broadcast bands without increasing the risk of interference to broadcast services; provide technical parameters for fixed and personal/portable white space devices to operate in the 600 MHz band, including the duplex gap and guard bands, and channel 37 on a shared non-interference basis with medical telemetry and radio astronomy; permit sharing of spectrum between white space devices and unlicensed microphones in the 600 MHz band" and more.

How these rules will affect Broadway shows has yet to be determined, even by the Broadway technicians themselves. Broadway League's Ferrugia added, "After reviewing the general framework of the decision, we remain optimistic that the FCC has taken all reasonable measures to reduce the negative impact on venues presenting Broadway and Touring Broadway shows, however we must wait and evaluate the forthcoming Orders and Rules before commenting on how the theaters will be affected."

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