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RESOURCE CENTER AND ARCHIVES

Consequences steep for churches that do not obey new FCC mic rulecomment (0)

August 19, 2010

By Kristen Padilla


Dawson Memorial Baptist Church, Birmingham, spent just shy of $4,000 over the past two years changing out five wireless microphone sets that would no longer be legal under the new Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulation that went into effect June 12.

Even with that much notice to stop using wireless microphones in the 700 megahertz (MHz) band, the switchover was still inconvenient, said Dennis Hoffman, audio ministry team coordinator for Dawson Memorial Baptist.

But “you have to be compliant; you don’t have a choice,” he said.

While larger churches probably have the budget to handle the expense associated with the switch, smaller churches may find it rather painful.

“For a smaller membership church, that’s a pretty good outlet of cash,” said Keith Hibbs, director of the office of worship leadership and church music for the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions. “It is expensive (but) it just has to be swallowed.”

Replacing the microphones can cost anywhere from $650 to $1,500, depending on the quality. That’s because the rule change requires replacing more than just the handheld or lapel microphone. The entire wireless system has to go.

“With a wireless system, you take the cable that connects to the mic and plug it into a receiver. The microphone that the person talks into is connected to a belt transmitter pack. What you’re replacing is the transmitter and the receiver pack,” said Hoffman, who does sanctuary sound system/application consultant work on the side.

But churches shouldn’t wait until they find enough money to make the switch or just hope that their existing wireless microphone system will go unnoticed because the consequences for failing to comply with the new rule are steep, he said.

Those who do not comply can face fines totaling more than $100,000 or imprisonment.

Hoffman said pastors may be the ones at the greatest risk.

“What happens is that the minister, the pastor of the church, who is considered the CEO, is the one personally held responsible,” he said. “He’s the one who would be liable for it, not necessarily the congregation.”

And churches should realize that continuing to use a wireless microphone in the 700 MHz band could interfere with an emergency broadcast, Hibbs said.

“There’s a civic duty … to comply,” he said.

On its website, the FCC explains that when these wireless microphones were first designed, they operated between the frequencies television stations used to broadcast programs.

“With the completion of the digital television transition on June 12, 2009, television stations no longer use the frequencies between 698 and 806 MHz (the 700 MHz Band) for broadcast,” the FCC stated. “These frequencies are now being used by public safety entities (such as police, fire and emergency services) and by commercial providers of wireless services (such as wireless broadband services).

“The wireless microphones that had been operating in the old TV broadcast channels can cause harmful interference to these public safety and wireless consumer services,” it continued.

So how does a church find out if its wireless microphone systems are operating within the 700 MHz band?

Look at the back or side of the receiver for a number followed by MHz. If the number falls between 698 and 806, then the microphone is operating on the 700 MHz band and can no longer be used.

Or visit the FCC website, http://fcc.gov/cgb/wirelessmicrophones/manufacturers.html, for a list of microphones that operate within this band broken down by manufacturer and model number, or call the FCC at 1-888-225-5322.  

For more information, contact Hibbs at 1-800-264-1225, Ext. 217, or Hoffman at 205-910-9544.

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What to do

How do you find out if your wireless mic system doesn’t comply with the new Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulation?
• Check the back or side of your wireless mic receiver(s) for a number followed by MHz. If the number falls between 698 and 806 MHz, then it needs to be replaced.
• Go to the FCC website, http://fcc.gov/cgb/wirelessmicrophones/manufacturers.html, and see if your model number is listed.
• Call the FCC at 1-888- 225-5322.

What do you do if one or more of your wireless microphone systems falls within the 700MHz band?
Ed Landers, director of the media center at Samford University’s Orlean Bullard Beeson School of Education and Professional Studies, recommends visiting the website or calling a reputable microphone manufacturer to ask about prices and updating your system(s). Two manufactures he recommends are Shure (1-847-600-2000/shure.com) and Audio-technica (1-330-686-2600/audio-technica.com).

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