Broadway League Wants Wireless-Microphone "White Space" Studied More

News   Broadway League Wants Wireless-Microphone "White Space" Studied More
Broadway producers continue to worry that the broadcast radio spectrum now used to support wireless microphones in shows will be compromised by future public use of hand-held devices that may also end up using that free so-called "white space" frequency.

The Broadway League has asked the Federal Communications Commission to refrain from voting to approve new devices that will transmit in the "white space" radio spectrum, currently occupied by wireless microphones.

"Without publishing proposed rules and allowing public discourse, the FCC, pressured by leading technology firms" will vote on this issue on Nov. 4, the League said. The League's concerns were filed in response to the FCC's announcement that it will vote on an order potentially opening the white spaces to portable internet devices that have "spectrum sensing technology intended to prevent interference with wireless microphones."

Although the goal of these devices is to prevent interference with personal gadgets such as cell phones, an FCC engineers' report issued on Oct. 15, 2008 "demonstrates repeated failures of spectrum sensing to recognize wireless transmissions," according to the League.

"The FCC may forge ahead and adopt new rules without allowing interested parties any prior opportunity to ensure the Commission took adequate steps to address the needs of all wireless microphone users," the League stated.

Not only is the quality of the performances at risk, but also the safety of all who work in these venues will be compromised, the League asserts. "Sound engineers will have no way to locate or report the source of interference should a portable device disrupt a live performance." Wireless microphones are an essential tool of the live performance industry, used in the daily operations of countless theatres and non-profit performance venues, sports arenas, houses of worship and concert halls across the country.

The New York City Council recently adopted a Resolution urging the FCC to open a formal comment period on its engineers' report before putting the issue to a vote and to allocate sufficient channels for current wireless microphone users.

Nina Lannan, chairman of The Broadway League, commented, "Broadway contributes more than $5 billion to the City of New York and generates the equivalent of 44,000 full time jobs. We must be assured that these devices work, not only for Broadway, but also for theatres across America too. Touring Broadway productions help infuse the nation's economy with over $3 billion annually."

Major technology companies want use of the free white space, which producers and organizations (profit and non-profit) have enjoyed for years without regulation or fee. Even if the white space can be used concurrently by the general public and producers, sports organizations, churches and others, it is not known at this time if that use would come with a price tag for all parties — or what the cost would be for producers to re-imagine and re-invent sound transmission in the theatre.

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