Churches scramble to meet FCC rules on mics
Fernando Alfonso III, Religion News Service
June 03, 2010

Churches scramble to meet FCC rules on mics

Churches scramble to meet FCC rules on mics
Fernando Alfonso III, Religion News Service
June 03, 2010


churches have less than two weeks to change their wireless microphone equipment

or face more than $100,000 in fines.

In January, the Federal

Communications Commission mandated that anyone using wireless microphones on

the 700 MHz band must stop by June 12 in order to make room for use by police,

fire and emergency services.

An unlicensed person or

business — which includes churches — using microphones on frequencies between

698 and 806 MHz must stop or face action by the FCC. Violators could face up to

$112,500 in fines or imprisonment for continued violation, according to the

FCC. Violations will be handled on a case-by-case basis.

Since December 2008, Shure

Inc., a Niles, Ill.-based audio-visual company, has worked with churches to

replace their audio equipment.

“It’s like being told that

you got to replace your dishwasher even though it’s working just fine,” said

Chris Lyons, manager of educational and technical communication at Shure.

“It affects any church that

has any number of microphones that work in the 700 MHz band. For the last

several years, that has been one of the very popular parts of the band. So

there is a big installed base of wireless life there.”

The Village Church of Gurnee

in Gurnee, Ill. uses its 24 wireless devices for drama productions, music,

preaching and children’s ministry. Because of the cost, the church only

replaced half of its devices.

“If we were to replace every

single channel and piece of equipment we have … it’s gonna cost us about

$50,000 total,” said Jason Carter, the Village Church’s pastor of worship


“We’re really having to rethink how we’re going to do some of those

events … It really is changing the dynamic of how we do ministry here on

Sunday mornings.”

At Lakewood Church in

Houston, Texas, the country’s largest church, technical director Reid Hall

spent $26,000 to replace 35 of its wireless systems.

“It was a long, strategic

plan” Hall said. “There are many churches in similar situations that just can’t

run out and plop down three or four thousand for new wireless systems. … For

them it’s a huge burden.”

The burden has been felt at

North Heights Lutheran Church in Arden Hill, Minn., where chief audio engineer

Keith Bufis has replaced 30 wireless microphone systems at a cost of about


“We’ve had to tighten our

belts,” Bufis said. “We really did not have a budget to cover it all.”

Lakewood Church, Village

Church, North Heights and 76 other houses of worship have petitioned Congress

to pass the Wireless Microphone Users Interference Protection Act. The bill,

sponsored by Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., would allow places like churches, educational

facilities, recording studios and museums to register their spots on the

television airwaves, or “white spaces,” that their wireless microphones operate


“The white space is sort of

this open area right now,” Carter said.

“It’s kind of like, you go

to the beach … you just find an empty spot and sit down. But, if you get up

and go to the concession stand … and come back, somebody else is in your

spot. There is no legal recourse for you to get your piece of sand back.”

In his letter to Congress,

Lakewood Church pastor Joel Osteen said churches “must have the right ‘tools’

and the tools must operate properly and without interference.”

Mark Brunner, senior

director of global brand management at Shure, said the problem was, in many

ways, unanticipated in a rapidly changing technological landscape.

“Licenses were not on the

radar of the FCC until they recognized, that in order to share this spectrum

with new broadband devices, we’re going to need to know where these mic’s are,”

Brunner said. “And if they don’t know where they are, they can’t run air

traffic control.”

What about your church?

If you are part of a North Carolina Baptist church (Baptist State Convention of North Carolina) and have had to make adjustments for these new FCC rules, please let the Biblical Recorder know via e-mail to [email protected]. Please include name and contact information as well as what this change is doing at your church and to your church budget.