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December 03, 2013

FCC Faces Tough Choices Before 2014 Spectrum Auction

Wireless microphone manufacturers and broadcasters are pleading with the FCC not to auction off bandwidth in the 600 MHz range next year.

The FCC plans to auction the spectrum because the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 contains a small piece of legislation called "The Spectrum Act." The Spectrum Act orders the FCC to auction broadcast licenses in the 600 MHz band to raise funds for a public safety network.

The public safety network is designed to prevent the kind of chaos experienced by government officials, police officers, firefighters, paramedics and other workers on 9/11.

Unfortunately, the 600 MHz band is also the spectrum most often used by wireless microphones. These microphones gather sound for functions ranging from sporting events to Broadway musicals. The 600 MHz band is the spectrum of choice for theme parks, museums, churches and broadcasters all across the country.

Recently, RadioWorld.com reported that a group of broadcasters including ABC, CBS, Fox TV Station, Fox News, Univision, the NAB and many other major TV station groups wrote a joint letter to Mignon Clyburn, the Acting Chairwoman of the FCC.

"Given that the band plan discussions do not appear to contemplate a future with clean spectrum for microphones, we fear that the commission inadvertently may be heading down a path that puts newsgathering at risk," the broadcasters stated in the letter. "We urge you to preserve the two channels set aside for wireless microphone use in each market."

If the FCC goes ahead with the auction, then broadcasters could lose both the white space spectrum, or unoccupied TV channels, that they currently use for wireless mic broadcasts. They could also lose the 12 MHz of bandwidth that each U.S. media market reserves for wireless microphones.

Sennheiser, a company specializing in products for the recording, transmission and reproduction of sound, has argued that the FCC should force winners of the spectrum auction to compensate owners of wireless microphone equipment.

Sennheiser points out that with the loss of the 600 MHz band, content creators will have to stage shows using little more than half of the currently available UHF spectrum. Wireless microphone owners have already had to make major equipment investments after the FCC auctioned off 700 MHz bandwidth a few years ago.

Edited by Cassandra Tucker

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