Skip to main content

Broadcasters Take White Space Debate to Airwaves

Upping a battle between industry lobbying titans, NAB is running print and television ads in the Washington area to fight prospective rules that would allow unlicensed mobile white space devices (WSDs) in unused DTV channels.

In a news conference Sept. 10 announcing the campaign, NAB hauled out heavy hitters from across the broadcasting world to get its message out that the potential devices could cause interference to DTV signals and derail the digital transition. Immediately after the news conference, the posse of lobbyists was set to storm Capitol Hill and the FCC with their grievances.

“If they don’t detect, you must reject,” said David Donovan, president and CEO of the Association for Maximum Service Television (MSTV), speaking of the prototype WSDs and their “spectrum sensing” technology, designed to detect DTV signals and then avoid those channels.

The new “Tell Congress”-style commercials are running on every English- and Spanish-language channel in the Washington area. NAB is also running ads in Capitol Hill publications read by Congressional staff. The ads note the interference zones WSDs can create, and simulate the kind of interference that disrupt key programming—the ads use Washington Redskins action as an example.

Countering the broadcasters’ push, the New America Foundation issued materials attacking what its calls “myths” about the devices’ ability to detect and utilize vacant DTV channels.

“NAB scare tactics cannot change the engineering facts. There is no longer any doubt about the technical feasibility of mobile, low-power devices to detect-and-avoid channels occupied by licensed TV stations or wireless microphone systems,” Michael Calabrese, director of New America’s Wireless Future Program, said in a statement.