Emmy President Backtracks From Column Cheering White Space

Kudos to those who can admit they were wrong. Shelly Palmer, president of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (New York), has posted a column (“White Space—A Big White Lie”) on his Web site backing off on a previous item cheering the advent of white spaces devices in the unused DTV channels.

Palmer, like scores of other writers and tens of thousands of point-and-click activists, seemed to have been dazzled by the white space promises of Google, Microsoft and other mega-corporations.

Opinion-mongers take note: Palmer reveals in his column that after his earlier column cheering the future of white space devices, he was quickly bombarded with e-mails from actual engineers. He even intimates he may have looked at the 400-page report on the matter by the FCC Office of Engineering and Technology—the one that shills up front that white space boosters established “proof of concept” (of avoiding interference to television), but which reveals deep inside that no such technology has yet reliably worked.

“Despite all the lobbying and the press and subsequent approval of the unconditional use of white space, there still hasn’t been a successful test,” Palmer says in the column, perhaps overstating the matter a bit on behalf of TV. (Some spectrum-sensing technology did work, and broadcasters have repeatedly acknowledged that interference-avoidance tools such as geolocation databases could be part of a working white space regime; the disagreements between broadcasters and white space dreamers are in the details—technical matters such as acceptable power levels and the use of spectrum adjacent to active DTV channels.)

Palmer concludes in the column that he believes technology will ultimately solve the remaining white space issues, and we will all enjoy the additional benefits of this spectrum.

With the white space bandwagon running full-speed all the way into the White House, it’s refreshing to see some balance.