Broadway’s fight with the FCC.

There’s a battle being waged right above our heads on the ol’ Broadway.

And it’s invisible.

For years, the Broadway League has been mixing it up with the Federal Communications Commission and a bunch of major corporations out there (Hint – one of them rhymes with Schmoogle) over something called, “The Wireless Spectrum.”

I know, The Wireless Spectrum sounds like some new series on the SyFy channel starring Alyssa Milano and the non-Don Johnson dude from Miami Vice.

In actuality, it’s what wireless tech companies use to transmit your cell phone calls, internet, and . . . wait for it . . . voice from wireless microphones.  (Click here to read an article explaining exactly what it is.)

And now you see what it has to do with Broadway.

The spectrum is not unlimited, and as more and more wireless devices and technology hit the market, more and more big corps want more and more of the spectrum.

And who cares about Broadway!

Well, we do, obviously, which is why the League has been battling it out to keep our stake in the spectrum safe and secure.  And it’s been working.  To quote a recent communication from The League . . .

To date, we have seen the FCC formally recognize your use of the wireless spectrum, as well as develop a national database to prohibit interference to live productions from the next generation of Smartphones.

God knows this can’t be exciting or easy work, so a big thank you to everyone over there who is going to wireless war for us.

However, the battle may just be beginning.

See, the government makes billions from licensing use of the spectrum and the FCC is about to auction off more of the spectrum that TV networks used to use (before they want digital) . . . because they want to make a few more billions.

And this may just get in our way again.

If you want to learn more about the spectrum and how it may influence you, there is a live public workshop at the FCC happening right now (sorry for the late notice!).

Click here to watch.  It started at 9:30 this AM and runs until 12:30.

And if you run into a Congressman or Congresswoman anytime soon, tell ’em to keep their hands off our spectrum!  Because without wireless, we might have to go back to unamplified sound!  (Huh.  Wait a minute, that might not be so bad.)


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  • Kristi R-C says:

    Not just Broadway. EVERY school or theater that uses wireless mics has a stake in this. That’s thousands of organizations.

  • But that would only be true for the current generation of wireless microphones and the frequencies they use (and yes, there is a large investment in that technology). But I can’t think of a reason that wireless couldn’t adapt over time to use the other spectrums — in particular, use of an IP based protocol like VOiP over 802.11 wireless spectrum to a receiver in the theatre. Depending on distance, bluetooth might also be a possibility. It might also be able to use the same frequency and protocols used for cordless phones.

  • Fran says:

    I remember when the bandwidths overlapped. I was on crew for a show at the Lion Theater on W. 42nd Street. Sometimes we’d get taxi calls over the wireless during a show.

    Unamplified sound. First Broadway show I ever saw was You Can’t Take it With You. My high school english teacher wouldn’t pass us senior year unless we saw 2 shows, bringing back playbill, stubs and an essay. We got cheap seats in the balcony. It was a huge theater and with the sound delay, the audience in the orchestra heard the lines before us and started laughing while we were trying to figure out what was just said. Very frustrating and left me unimpressed with theater.

    The 2nd show I saw was Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. Could see and hear and it convinced me to take some theater courses. I still remember the final lines. One of them is still alive on a dark stage and says: Now you see me, now you …. As he said the lines the light narrowed in on him, so “now you” we only saw his head, then blackout. It was magic and it hooked me. I was surprised when I got to college and learned some tech; it was just a simple followspot cue.

    Memories. I still love the magic.

    P.S. I think the first Broadway show to be miked was Applause with Lauren Bacall.

  • Mark A. Zimmerman says:

    Speaking only for my little HS theatre program, we already invested $5000.00 in moving our wireless mics from one part of the spectrum to another thanks to the FCC’s wheeling and dealing. I sincerely hope it does not happen again. I am not sure I can raise the money again.

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