Welcome to Line Up – the only online resource dedicated to audio for broadcast.
After the first few times of employing radio mics on a few productions you would have very quickly slipped into a massive mindset change that disconnected the physical limitations of the past. There was a liberation of thought and a freedom to try things that you previously just wouldn’t bother with because you knew they wouldn’t work. Radio microphones released enormous creative energy in productions across the board and even in comparison to the adoption of digital technology elsewhere in production chains it transformed the flow and most significantly the look of broadcasts massively. TV looks the way it does today from sports coverage to chat shows and drama because radio mics have been embraced wholeheartedly. It has also set a level of expectation in viewers and while they won’t be aware of it has improved the quality of viewing experience. It’s why when they watch TV on their travels to other countries that use handhelds and even wired mics they notice that something is different. Radio mics have had a profound effect in live productions from stadia to churches and boardrooms to theatre where the disappearance of cables permitted the creation of the money making spectaculars that upped the ratings in the West End and Broadway. With it all came a new breed of technician to manage the radio mic contribution and we all had to grasp the fundamentals and understand the logistics of the process. And it’s been like that for years.
Except that now ‘wireless’ is a term that everyone ‘gets’ in principle and everyone has access to as a consumer. It doesn’t take an enormous cognitive leap to arrive at the situation that we are in today where the spectrum that we have used and relied on for all those years is being steadily eroded. Perhaps as an industry we were slow to get organised across the different powerbases of broadcast, live and theatre, for example. There was also something of a Mexican standoff between the industry and the government bodies responsible as each tried to impress on the other how serious the issue was, albeit for completely different reasons. Then there was the undercurrent theme that technology would in some way gallop to the rescue of all; that ‘digital’ was the answer and that manufacturers just had to get off backsides and make the stuff. There was talk of compensation, legacy product support issues and an uncomfortable light shone on the endemic lack of licences among users.
There has been a tragio-comedic quality to the unfolding of the spectrum issue that pits an industry that is not quite organised and unified enough to exert the influence that it could against the governing bodies who are all-powerful yet ill-informed and clumsy.
Yet open up the topic of decreasing spectrum in a public forum and I am surprised at how oblivious some practitioners remain – they think it is somebody else’s problem that someone else is going to sort out. They don’t see it as something they can engage with individually because they see their audio sector as only a niche in a much bigger world that they don’t know much about. This reveals a weakness in our industry -- those who operate in a discipline remain in it and are more likely to conquer the vagaries of accompanying technologies – like picture and IT for a broadcast audio type – than they are to understand what it’s like to be in theatre sound or even location sound. We’re fundamentally hard to unite because despite all of us being audio folk we frequently lack the empathy with others in our extended tribe. Throw in manufacturer competition and we have done exceptionally well to get this far in the spectrum issue. Yet now is a crucial time for us to unite and stand up for workable wireless spectrum rights because the end game approaches. And let’s not forget that this is predominantly an audio issue.
Zenon Schoepe, Executive Editor