Music-based broadcasters, Nashville community jump into white spaces

Several leading Nashville-based music interests along with MTV Networks have filed comments with the FCC stating that allowing unlicensed wireless devices to operate in the same spectrum as wireless microphones without failsafe protections would be a catastrophe. In their filing, the Grand Ole Opry, Country Music Television (CMT), the Country Music Association (CMA) and MTV Networks were joined by Fitzgerald Hartley (management for Vince Gill and LeAnn Rimes), SGTV (producer of the Dove Awards for gospel music) and SeisMic Sound (audio engineers for the CMT Video Music Awards and the Dove Awards).

Filed with the FCC on May 13, the ex parte comments called on the commission to maintain its “cautious” approach to determining whether wireless white spaces devices that operate in the same spectrum as wireless microphones should be sold to the public. They asserted that the commission must ensure that any proposed new devices can actually protect wireless microphones before issuing rules regarding their design and operation. In particular, beacon-based plans recently proposed by technology companies were criticized as both unproven and burdensome to incumbent users.

“We fully support and appreciate the commission’s decision to test ‘white space’ device prototypes in laboratory and field environments, to assess whether they will, in fact, prevent interference to existing spectrum users. It should go without saying that the commission should not proceed to the next step unless those tests demonstrate that spectrum sensing or other interference protection measures being proposed can reliably protect wireless microphones and DTV,” the filing states.

“We know all too well that there is no ‘second chance’ to re-do a live performance,” said Steve Gibson, music director and broadcast audio producer for the Grand Ole Opry. “The white spaces proposals being considered by the FCC could turn ‘Music City’ into a silent city unless they get it right. As it stands, these proposals will not provide critical protection to the wireless microphone systems that are integral to every show.”

The Nashville group emphasized that wireless microphones are an essential element of the production facilities in virtually every concert hall, performance center, music festival and event in the city’s venues, and that their wireless systems are carefully coordinated by extensive teams of experienced production engineers to achieve the high-quality professional live productions for which Nashville is known. The comments suggest that these incumbent users should have first priority for unfettered operation, and that the FCC should refocus its efforts on examining fixed systems with protected adjacent TV channels and other interference protections.