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Bills could make sports remotes harder

If a Congressional effort to open so-called unused TV spectrum to use by unlicensed devices becomes law, wireless mic use could at best become trickier and at worst a thing of the past.

Bills under consideration in the House and the Senate aim to allow millions of consumers to tap into the spectrum currently reserved television and licensed, coordinated devices like wireless mics.

For example, the American Broadband for Communities Act introduced by Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK), chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, states: “any unused broadcast television spectrum in the band between 72MHz and 698MHz, inclusive, other than spectrum in the band between 608MHz and 614MHz, inclusive, may be used by unlicensed devices, including wireless broadband devices.”

If enacted, the potential for interference to wireless mics will increase. The most commonly used wireless mic VHF frequencies fall within 174MHz to 216MHz and on the UHF band from 470MHz to 806MHz.

During the Easter recess, Association for Maximum Service Television representatives met with Congressional staffers to discuss the potential for interference from these devices to TV signals and licensed wireless devices. While the meetings raised the staffers’ sensitivity to the potential for trouble, Congress seems intent on moving forward on the legislation, according to MSTV president David Donovan.

The Stevens bill protects “incumbent licensed services operating pursuant to their licenses from harmful interference from such unlicensed devices.” However, such language will be of little consolation during a live television production where unidentified unlicensed device users periodically interfere with wireless mic users.

Wireless microphones at live remotes may be threatened by harmful interference from newcomers to the television band if House and Senate bills authorizing the use of unlicensed devices in so-called unused television spectrum become law. “With live news shots, you don’t have time to correct this,” he said. “With the wireless mic issue, you are live, on the air, and if it goes out, the harm is done.”

The Stevens bill or a similar one introduced by Virginia Republican George Allen are likely to become part of a larger bill. MSTV’s Donovan says action could come as early as mid-May. A similar bill is making its way through the House.

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