TCG's Involvement in White Space: Background and Issue Breakdown

What We're Doing Now

On January 15th, 2010 the FCC approved and adopted an Order and a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that will affect the use of wireless microphones in the performing arts. The Order took effect upon publication in the Federal Register on January 22nd 2010.

The FCC Order carries several immediate implications:

  • Necessity to comply with 700 MHz transition date, June 12, or earlier if requested by a public safety or 700 MHz commercial licensee
  • Immediate shut-down of 700 MHz microphones upon notice of interference from a public safety or 700 MHz licensee
  • Assess inventory of 700 MHz equipment for replacement

Since publication in the Federal Register all wireless microphones enjoy an interim legal status under Part 15 for the first time ever. These users must comply with interim operating conditions. These are the Conditions for Part 15 Interim Use:

  • May not operate at powers exceeding 50mW
  • Must comply with technical rules
  • Must use devices certified under Part 74

Further, the Order includes a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that expresses interest in expanding eligibility for Part 74 licenses and requests Comments with regard to defining parameters for eligibility. Expansion in eligibility for licensing will also allow for interference protections and continues to be our core request to the FCC. TCG believes this will best serve the field as the FCC pursues reallocation of the broadcast spectrum. TCG is working closely with the Coalition of Wireless Microphone Users and the Performing Arts Alliance to draft Comments to submit to the FCC.

Please help us spread the word about the June 12th vacate deadline to any persons or organizations that use wireless microphones and alert production managers, technical directors and sound engineers to these changes. This table, found on the FCC website, should help in determining whether the wireless microphones your organization uses operate within the 700 MHz band and if they can be rebanded or will need to be replaced. Shure, Sennheiser, and Sony all have information about the rebates they are offering on their respective websites. TCG may need to quickly gather information from the field to help in our ongoing advocacy efforts on this issue, so if you receive an Alert, please respond! If you have comments or questions, please contact Laurie Baskin at

Issue Breakdown

What’s it all about? The television industry transitioned to digital transmission, which opened up certain “white space” in the broadcast spectrum. The consumer electronics industry sought a ruling from the FCC to allow new electronic hand-held devices, such as PDAs, cordless phones and even newer technologies to operate in these frequencies, while performing arts venues have operated wireless microphones and audio systems in this “white space” spectrum for 35 years. The new electronic devices were approved by the FCC in a November 2008 vote and the FCC Rule and Order was published in the Federal Register in February 2009. In other words, the FCC voted to open the White Space to new devices.

What’s the problem? There are three main uses of wireless technology in the performing arts:

- Infrared technology used for hearing impaired patrons
- Amplification of performers’ voices, allowing unrestricted movement onstage along with sophisticated sound
- Communications backstage among stagehands

The new electronic devices pose a threat to performing arts technology because all of these uses could suffer interference from the new devices.

Background on White Space, the FCC and TCG

Wireless microphones that are used in our theatres operate in the so-called “white space” portion of the spectrum. Recent auction of the “white space” is resulting in a reorganization of the broadcast spectrum, a re-examination of the allowable uses of the spectrum, and the development of new devices to be used in the same part of the spectrum currently used by wireless microphone technology. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has conducted lab testing as well as a round of field tests of prototype devices intended for development and use in the white space spectrum. The reports from these tests are public information and links can be found on the TCG website.

The Public Interest Spectrum Coalition (PISC) filed a formal complaint with the FCC, against Shure Microphones, for selling wireless microphones that are not legally licensed to be operated in the “white space.” As a result, the FCC announced that it has launched a formal investigation.

TCG, along with the Performing Arts Alliance, continues to be very active on the White Space issue. We have had meetings with Hill staffers and four meetings at the FCC. In addition, TCG is also working in coalition with the Broadway League on this issue. The Broadway League has assembled an impressive coalition that also includes ART/New York, the Educational Theatre Association, ESPN, the League of Off-Broadway Theatres and Producers, LORT, NBA, NCAA, NFL, NHL, News Corporation, Major League Baseball and Sports Video Group. This coalition is represented by Skadden, Arps. TCG recognizes the benefits of greater access to the internet and encourages innovations that expand connectivity for under-served populations. At the same time, we are working to try to protect our members against increased interference to wireless microphone systems. Our first order of business with the FCC is to urge them to create a new class of entities (performing arts organizations) eligible to apply for a license to operate wireless microphones. This would afford our sector much-needed protection.

A reminder that performing arts organizations are to have vacated the portion of the “white space” – channels 52-69, between 700 and 800 MHz frequencies. You are urged to contact your wireless microphone equipment manufacturer. Depending on make and model, your equipment could be re-banded with a new frequency range. Otherwise, it will need to be replaced. Please do this as soon as possible, especially if you are in a metropolitan market.

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