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House bill calls for wireless mic safe havens

A bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives on Aug. 1 would require the Federal Communications Commission to take steps to ensure wireless mic operations would remain protected from harmful interference from new, unlicensed TV band white space devices.

The Wireless Microphone Users Interference Protection Act of 2013 (H.R. 2911), introduced by Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL), would require the FCC to expand eligibility for Part 74 licenses to certain wireless mic users and set up two safe haven channels for wireless mic usage. The bill also would require the regulatory agency to give owners and operators of wireless mics access to TV band databases to protect wireless mic operation from interference.

The bill has garnered support from the broadcast industry, wireless mic manufacturers and the Broadway theatrical community.

In a letter supporting the congressman’s effort to protect wireless mic operation from interference, Gordon Smith, president and CEO of NAB, called the microphones “a vital component” in how local television stations serve their communities.

“Without safe haven protections for these operations, broadcasters may not be able to provide on-the-scene coverage of breaking news, emergency information, political events and other time-sensitive situations,” the letter said.

Shure, a major manufacturer of wireless microphones, echoed Smith’s praise and support for the bill. "Over the past 25 years or so, wireless microphones have become a critical component of professional sound production, whether it's a Sunday service in a megachurch or a nationally televised sporting event," said Sandy LaMantia, company president and CEO. "The audiences at these events expect and deserve clear, high-quality, reliable audio."

Theatre Communications Group, a national theater organization, also expressed support for the bill. “We are pleased to partner with Congressman Rush as well as our fellow theater service organizations A.R.T./New York and the Broadway League to protect the use of wireless microphones,” said Teresa Eyring, TCG executive director. Eyring added that wireless mic protection is essential to the safety and quality of performances “so that theaters may continue contributing to the cultural and economic vitality of the communities they serve.”

The Federal Communication Commission is in the midst of implementing its incentive auction process to recoup TV spectrum to provide more spectrum to wireless providers for mobile broadband access. The process will include a repacking of full-power TV stations into less spectrum and likely less UHF channel availability for wireless mic use.