Sennheiser Petitions FCC to Compensate Owners of Wireless Microphone Equipment as Spectrum Faces Repacking for Second Time
Pending Spectrum Auction Jeopardizes Future Use of Wireless Microphones Operating in the 600 MHz Range, Unfairly Forcing Content Creators to Reinvest Again in Wireless Equipment
Audio specialist Sennheiser announced that it has recently filed comments with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in light of the pending spectrum auction scheduled to take place in 2014. The government auction, which jeopardizes the future use of wireless microphones and monitors operating in the 600 MHz range, will force many U.S. based content creators — including broadcast, film and live production professionals — to attempt to stage their shows using little more than half of the currently available UHF spectrum.
In the document filed on November 4th, Sennheiser argues that the winners of the spectrum auction should compensate owners of wireless microphone equipment that will be rendered obsolete as a direct result of the planned spectrum repacking. Currently, the FCC has not announced any plans to compensate wireless microphone owners, who play a critical role in U.S. content creation and who will have to make significant investments in new equipment for the second time within a few years.
“Wireless microphones are an essential ingredient of content creation in the United States,” commented Joe Ciaudelli, spectrum affairs, Sennheiser Electronic Corp. “Currently, the United States is the number one content creator in the world when it comes to broadcasting, film production and live events. The A/V professionals that produce this content, which is enjoyed by both domestic and international consumers, depend on the 600 MHz frequency spectrum each day. Now they are being told that they must vacate this UHF space, and with no contingency or recourse to recover their equipment investments.
This is grossly unfair, especially considering that this will be the second time this has occurred within a few years. This time mics and monitors won’t be able to simply be relocated into lower portions of the UHF because it is already packed with replacement mics for ones rendered obsolete by the 700 MHz reallocation. TV stations currently operating in 600 MHz will also be relocated to lower channels, exacerbating the congestion.”
“Not only does the pending spectrum repacking threaten to diminish U.S. leadership in content creation, it creates an unecessary hardship to many thousands of audio professionals by forcing them to reinvest in compliant equipment,” he continued. “While adverse effects of the spectrum repacking will inevitably occur, simple fairness says that the auction winners who will derive revenue from the auctioned spectrum should provide compensation.”
Currently, the vast majority of U.S.-based major film productions, television broadcasts and major concert events in the United States rely heavily on the 600 MHz frequency range. Eliminating access to this not only significantly increases congestion in the 500 MHz frequency range, but also places unprecedented technical demands on both the equipment and operators working in this space. The FCC has also received letters of support for Sennheiser’s position from industry leading companies including Shure, Audio Technica, Lectrosonics, and CP Communications. “We encourage others to write to the FCC as well,” states Ciaudelli.
Following is an excerpt from Sennheiser’s recent filing that illustrates the role wireless equipment plays in the U.S. commercial, political and economic arenas:
“Wireless microphones are ubiquitous in all aspects of the entertainment business, in news reporting, in sports, and in U.S. commercial, civic, and religious life. They are essential to the production of virtually all non-studio broadcast events, and to nearly all studio-produced programs as well. These include team sports from local college broadcasts to the Super Bowl, the World Series, the Final Four, and the Stanley Cup; the Democratic and Republican political conventions; post-election national and local coverage; the Oscar, Emmy, and Grammy Awards shows; events such as the Olympics, NASCAR races, the Kentucky Derby, and major golf and tennis tournaments; and on-the-scene news reporting of all kinds, both local and national. These broadcasts routinely attract millions of viewers.
Motion-picture production, from Hollywood blockbusters with nine-digit budgets down to student work at the local community college, relies heavily on wireless microphones for clear, accurate audio. Live events, from Broadway productions to stadium-sized outdoor concerts, need wireless microphones to reach the back row. Presenters in auditoriums, lecture halls, and houses of worship find them indispensable.”
(*) Stephen E. Siwek, Copyright Industries in the U.S. Economy: The 2011 Report at 15 and Appendix A (Economists Incorporated 2011). Available at http://www.ei.com/downloadables/2011CopyrightSiwek.pdf
(**) U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, News: U.S. International Trade in Goods and Services, November 2012 at 3-4 (U.S. Dept. of Commerce released Jan. 11, 2013). Available at http://www.census.gov/foreign-trade/Press-Release/current_press_release/ft900.pdf
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