Broadcasters Reiterate Trucker TV Opposition

The National Association of Broadcasters and the Association for Maximum Service Television filed joint reply comments opposing the application and waiver requests of Clarity Media Systems. The company wants to obtain a cable television relay service license which would allow it to use all 2 GHz broadcast auxiliary frequencies for providing wireless video service to truckers and other users of Flying J Truck stops at 10 and, in the future, possibly 250 or more locations along U.S. interstate highways.

The reply comments highlighted the concerns of broadcasters representing at least 20 TV stations. These comments outline the impact Clarity's use of the 2 GHz BAS band would have on their newsgathering operations. Comments highlighted include Centex Television's observation that "any increase in the noise floor or potential for interference could mean the difference between providing viewers in the Waco, Texas, market with coverage of a breaking news event, or not." Lincoln Financial Media Co. commented that Clarity's proposed operations at Carmel Church, Va. could "impair WWBT's ability to cover accidents, traffic problems or other emergencies that may occur on the heavily traveled Interstate [highway]" and that Clarity's proposed operations at Blacksburg, S.C. could "impair WBTV's ability to conduct important ENG operations along the highway or to cover events in Blacksburg itself." McGraw-Hill expressed concern about the Frazier Park site north of Los Angeles. McGraw-Hill pointed out that KERO-TV provides live coverage of breaking news near the Frazier Park site weekly, including coverage of wildfires and that Clarity's service would interfere with this potentially life-saving reporting. Comments from Meredith, the Dispatch Broadcast Group, Red River Broadcast Co. and ABC Holding Co. express similar concerns.

NAB and MSTV directly addressed some of Clarity's comments. The organizations said, "Clarity has failed to demonstrate a convincing need for its wireless video service, particularly in light of the harm that service would cause to critical newsgathering operations." The NAB and MSTV reply comments also note that none of the three brief filings in support of Clarity's proposal dispute that the system would cause harmful interference to local broadcasters' BAS operations.

NAB and MSTV said Clarity's interference analysis was unreliable and failed to follow the established desired to undesired (D/U) ratios for protection of microwave links. The joint reply comments also included this from ABC's comments: "While Clarity has obviously selected its initial 10 locations carefully so that it can rely on some terrain shielding to mitigate interference to any BAS receive sites, it is likely that far more of its truck stops are located where Clarity's proposed transmitting antenna would be line of sight to BAS receive antennas."

Clarity's proposed commitment to address interference after it occurs would do little to prevent loss of news coverage, according to NAB and MSTV. They quoted Centex's comment that "[by] the time a television station could demonstrate conclusively that Flying J's broadcast service affected an ENG transmission, the moment would be over, the news would be lost and the mobile unit would have long since moved to another location."

The joint reply comments of NAB and MSTV address several non-technical problems with Clarity's applications and waiver request. The main argument is Clarity has not demonstrated there is a need for this waiver--SBE pointed out in their comments that truckers have multiple options, including satellite TV, when it comes to video services--and that there is other spectrum that could be used to provide the service without interfering with 2 GHz ENG operations.

"The fact that some of these alternatives might be more expensive to implement, as compared to free access to the 2 GHz band, does not render [Clarity's situation] inequitable or unduly burdensome such that a waiver is warranted," the associations said.

NAB and MSTV make a strong argument against the grant of Clarity's petition. It will be interesting to see how the FCC responds to this. For much more detail, refer to the Joint Reply Comments of the Association for Maximum Service Television, Inc. and the National Association of Broadcasters.