Insufficient frequencies: are theatre productions and trade fairs at risk of being cancelled?

Member of the German Bundestag for the FDP Christian Jung visited the cultural and creative industries in Karlsruhe / Politicians are not yet up to speed with many details regarding insufficient frequencies for wireless microphones

Member of the Bundestag for the FDP Christian Jung (centre) was briefed on the sound technology at the Badisches Staatstheater in Karlsruhe. Productions are performed at this theatre using wireless microphones, whereas cable microphones are a thing of the past. (Photo: Maximilian Scheu)

Karlsruhe/Berlin. In December 2018, FDP Member of the Bundestag Christian Jung spent a day with representatives of the cultural and creative industries in Karlsruhe and the region to discuss the looming problems surrounding insufficient frequencies for wireless microphones. “The future use of 5G is on everyone’s lips,” said Jung, “but we shouldn’t only be dreaming about the distant future, but also be looking at 2019, because from then onwards there will be insufficient frequencies for wireless microphones being used everywhere in theatre and at trade fairs, and also in kindergartens for performances or in church services.”

Each individual device needs its own frequency in order to work. In the past, however, many suitable frequencies were auctioned off to mobile phone networks and are no longer available for wireless microphones. The affected institutions have to buy new equipment or, where possible, put contingency plans in place at considerable expense so that their performances or events are not disrupted. “This is a nightmare scenario not only for Karlsruhe, but for the whole of Germany,” said Christian Jung. The FDP politician claimed that the Federal Government was ignoring the problem. “What we need is not only an efficient mobile phone network, but also a functioning cultural landscape,” he added.

Christian Jung was first briefed on sound technology at the Badisches Staatstheater in Karlsruhe. Productions are currently being performed at the theatre using wireless microphones, whereas cable microphones are a thing of the past. According to a number of sound and video technicians, only 24 wireless microphones are available for theatre performances, which would actually require 40 wireless microphones and corresponding frequencies. The auctioning of frequencies to mobile phone companies, held twice in recent years, means that fewer and fewer frequencies are available to the cultural scene. “Frequencies cannot be occupied by two users at the same time. We must take steps to prevent even more frequencies from being auctioned off, frequencies that are needed for wireless microphones, as this would have an adverse impact on theatres,” said the FDP politician.

Jung then visited the Karlsruhe trade fair to find out more. He learned that the fair had already had to purchase new microphones with transmitters and receivers when mobile phone companies bought up the frequencies required – even though the Federal Government had previously promised that this wouldn’t happen. Jung said that what the organisers wanted was planning security, and pledged to stand up for the interests of the cultural and event industry in the Bundestag and in the Advisory Council of the Federal Network Agency. Should there be a lack of frequencies for trade fairs in Baden-Württemberg in the future, major events could up sticks and move abroad. Jung said that steps must be taken to prevent this. The liberal Member of the German Bundestag finished the day in Karlsruhe-Neureut with a visit to Rock Shop, one of the largest music stores in Germany, as well as Crystal Sound, which is a leading professional event technology rental company. Jung also found out about the difficulties caused by a lack of frequencies for musicians and bands. Here, too, the fear of the loss of frequencies to mobile phone companies was palpable. The people that he spoke to said that this would be a disaster since Rock Shop and Crystal Sound would have to “scrap” many devices unnecessarily. Even compensation wouldn’t help. Money isn’t what the musicians are looking for here in the first instance, but rather sufficient frequencies.