WASHINGTON, DC – - Executives from the broadcast television business, major sports leagues and digital TV manufacturers unveiled a multi-industry effort today to protect television viewers from interference caused by proposed unlicensed personal-portable devices.
The so-called "white space devices" operate in spectrum reserved for television broadcasting. Last month, report by the FCC concluded that sample prototype white space devices caused interference to TV broadcasting and wireless microphones.
During the news conference, the Association for Maximum Service Television and the National Association of Broadcasters unveiled a television advertisement that began airing this morning and will continue to run on local television stations in the Washington area throughout the week. The ad urges viewers to "tell Congress not to allow unlicensed devices on digital TV channels."
Print ad have also begun running in several Capitol Hill publications, the groups said.
NAB Television Board Chairman Alan Frank, president of Post-Newsweek Stations, noted the importance of protecting viewers from interference.
"Interference is not acceptable to our viewers. While our friends at Intel, Google and Microsoft may find system errors, computer glitches and dropped calls tolerable, broadcasters do not," said Frank. "Consumers know that computers unexpectedly shut down. TVs don't. TVs work and people expect them to work."
Morgan Murphy Media President Elizabeth Murphy Burns, who serves as chairman of the MSTV and is a member of the NAB Television Board, noted that the average American household watches television more than eight hours per day.
"This is about consumers. Over the next few years, consumers will spend billions on digital television sets and government subsidized digital-to-analog converter boxes. Broadcasters have already invested billions in an unprecedented public-private partnership with government to bring the next generation of TV to American consumers," said Burns. "The very future of our business hinges on consumers' ability to receive interference-free reception."
At the news conference, NAB President and CEO David K. Rehr and MSTV President David Donovan announced they will be sending a letter to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin later today dispelling the claim made by white space device supporters who suggest that broadcasters oppose the rollout of rural broadband services.
"It is disingenuous for companies like Microsoft and Intel to insinuate that broadcasters oppose new technology," Rehr told reporters. "Broadcasters support rural broadband through a fixed service. The issue is whether these not-yet-invented devices should be deployed at the expense of broadcast television. We think such a move would be wrongheaded."
Noting a recent FCC report, Donovan explained: "The FCC's own Office of Engineering and Technology has confirmed that the proposed prototype devices supplied by white space supporters do not detect broadcast signals, and in fact, cause interference to broadcast television reception," said MSTV's Donovan.
"Even if the devices worked as designed, they would not protect DTV sets from devastating interference. Interference will occur over a vast area, from the apartment next door or down the street. Data released by the FCC in March showed an interference zone of 80 to 87 percent of a television station's service area."
Broadcasters were joined by representatives from the consumer electronics industry and sports leagues, who also expressed opposition to the interference-causing technology.
"At a time when the FCC, Congress, consumer electronics manufacturers, broadcasters, public interest groups and other stakeholders are doing their very best to educate consumers on the digital transition, it would be a tragic mistake for the Commission to open the DTV spectrum to new, unproven devices that rely solely on 'spectrum sensing' - an approach demonstrated by the FCC's own engineers to cause chronic interference," said John Taylor, vice president of public affairs, LG Electronics USA, Inc.
Jeff Willis, coordinating technical manager for ESPN Productions, warned of the unintended consequences of allowing white space devices to operate in TV spectrum. Representing the Sports Technology Alliance, a group whose members include National Hockey League, PGA Tour, ESPN, Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association, NCAA, and the National Football League, Willis explained, "White space interference has no timeline, no boundaries. It can occur in the bottom of the ninth with the bases loaded or as the kicking team lines up to kick the game winning field goal. The interference from these devices will render our use of wireless technology unreliable for telecast."
Both the Sports Technology Alliance and Learfield Sports, a company that produces sports broadcasts for 35 college athletic programs, have expressed opposition to unlicensed device usage in television spectrum.
A contingent of more than 15 local and network broadcasters will be meeting with members of the FCC today regarding this issue this afternoon.