Tales of the Sausage Factory

FCC Issues Excellent Wireless Microphone Order — Perhaps NAB Will Rely Less on Scare Tactics and Celebrity Letters Now.

Time to clear up a little piece of unfinished business for which I and this humble blog can claim some modest responsibility. The FCC finally issued it’s long awaited Order on wireless microphones stemming from this blog post and the subsequent complaint/Petition for Rulemaking by the Public Interest Spectrum Coalition (to which a special shout out to the folks at New America Wireless Future is due, given the fantastic amount of work they did on assembling evidence and helping draft the document).

As one can tell from this FCC press release describing the details, we pretty much got what we wanted — although not entirely and not in the way we expected. But, as I noted in this press statement in my role as Legal Director of Public Knowledge, we’re very happy with how things turned out. Briefly:
(a) all wireless mic users are now granted legal status, this is done pursuant to the FCC’s Part 15 rules for unlicensed rather than the “license by rule” that we suggested, but my only regret about that is I didn’t think of it when we filed.
(b) Everyone using wireless microphones needs to clear out of the 700 MHz band by Jun 12, 2010 — one year after the DTV transition and 15 months after the original date proposed by the FCC. Given how the Broadway people have been telling the FCC for months how they are off the 700 MHz band, this should not be too much of a hardship — especially for those who had no right to be there in the first place.
(c) The FCC will invest a boatload of its own resources, and gin up the FCC 2.0 machinery, to get the word out to folks and help consumers, churches, etc. handle the transition.
(d) The FCC will require that wireless microphones have signs and labels going forward to make sure that people understand the difference between licensed users and unlicensed users.

In addition, the FCC is having a further notice of proposed rulemaking that will:
1) Set the rules for the new Part 15 unlicensed wireless microphones.
2) Will examine whether to expand the class of Part 74 Subpart H eligible licensees to see if they should expand the class to give interference protection to some set of users — which would include who gets to be in the database of licensed services protected from operation of TV white spaces devices.

Yeah, that kicks the can down the road rather than saying flat out “anyone who was using a wireless microphone illegally is not entitled to protection against the TV white spaces devices, which went through the legal process and got approved.” But I can most definitely live with that. For one thing, I am confident that in an evidence-driven FCC which places consumer interests first, as demonstrated by this Order with its unprecedented investment of FCC resources for outreach (which we had not even dreamed of requesting except in the most general way of offering to help), will focus on the real question of whether or not there is interference and if so how to strike the appropriate balance between allowing new technologies and protecting existing users. Hopefully, this will inspire white spaces opponents to focus on engineering rather than trying to use scare tactics and celebrity “star power”.

More below . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Go Writers Guild!

Although as Writers Guild of America reminded its members, the strike is still on until the votes are counted, WGA has suspended picketing and it looks like they have a firm deal. The deal links writer compensation to advertising and other revenue derived from streaming media, an elegant solution to the problem of monetizing a product so new no one knows how it will make money and is extremely likely to be given away (you know, like broadcasting).

I don’t have much to add here by way of analysis, but I wanted to give a huge shout out to the writers and the guilds and the actors that supported them for holding out and getting a fair deal. If we are indeed a country on the verge of change (as I keep hearing), I can hope that one change will be to reverse the sad downward slide of organized labor. Unions have been one of the most positive forces in our country for economic progressivism. Perhaps a high profile win or two will remind people why it pays to join and why they should look for the union label . . . .

Stay tuned . . . .
(Former member National Treasury Employees Union)

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Tribute to Becky Lentz

I occasionally grouse that no one in mass movements ever remembers the lawyers, or why else does my employer Media Access Project keep needing to check behind the couch cushions for loose change, given our track record? But I live in the bloody spotlight compared to some of the others that have made the modern media reform movement possible. Which is why I want to take a moment to give Becky Lentz, formerly of the Ford Foundation, a big shout out.

For the last 6 years, Becky worked at the Ford Foundation as program officer for their media policy and technology portfolio. In her own way, Becky had as much to do with the victories of the last few years in resisting – and in some cases rolling back – media concentration and promoting positive change. Last month, Becky’s term ended and she returned to Academia.

What makes Becky Lentz an exceptional figure when they write the history of the media reform movement? See below . . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

My Annual Shameless Self-Serving Plug for My Employer

As you all know, I do this blog in my own time as a labor of love and the firm belief that the World Needs My Wisdom. During the day, I work as Senior Vice President of the Media Access Project (MAP). The views expressed here are entirely my own, and I keep a strenous “Chinese Firewall” between my MAP work and my blogging.

But I’m still gonna use my wholly independent space here to make a special end of year appeal for for folks to contribute to MAP. Because while I love my job, I can’t have two labors of love.

To keep from compromising our advocacy, MAP does not rely on industry money. We get funded primarily by grants and by individual contributions (and the occassional attorneys fee from those clients who can afford to make a contribution to our work and advocacy). In 2006, we had major wins in Network Neutrality, Media Ownership, Munibroadband, Spectrum Reform, and a personal shout out for our work on the Adelphia transaction from Commissioner Adelstein. And I will now include a gratuitous link to a recommendation from a friend this past fall.

For 35 years, MAP has been kicking ass and taking names to protect the public’s First Amendment right to speak and hear information from a diversity of sources in the electronic media. We’d like to keep at it for another 35. I know MAP is competing with a hundred other worthy causes, and that it is late in the year to make a pitch for that last contribution in 2006 (MAP is a 501(c)(3), so any donations are deductible). But I’m going to ask anyway. If you can make any kind of donation, we’d all really appreciate it.

Stay tuned . . . .

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