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Broadcasters Urge Genachowski to Protect Free TV

WASHINGTON: The top major broadcast TV associations this week delivered a letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski urging him to protect the coverage of over-the-air television. It came just as President Obama delivered a memo to the Commerce Department directing it to manage an initiative to free 500 MHz of spectrum for a national wireless broadband network. Several prominent broadcast engineers gathered at the FCC last week to discuss how they could use spectrum more efficiently.

“America’s free and local broadcast engineering community appreciated last week’s opportunity to gather and discuss the technical aspects and implications of the National Broadband Plan and proposals to reallocate a portion of the broadcast television spectrum for wireless broadband service on a voluntary basis. We look forward to working with you, your fellow commissioners, and agency staff in a fact-based process founded upon the engineering realities of sound spectrum management,” said the letter signed by David Donovan, chief of the Association for Maximum Service Television, and Lynn Claudy, senior vice president of science and technology a the National Association of Broadcasters.

Both men attended the FCC Broadcast Engineering Forum, where advanced compression, cellular architectures and VHF reception improvements were among topics considered. At the end of the day, it appeared that current technology was unlikely to create DTV transmission efficiencies such that spectrum could be freed without significant loss of coverage. ( See, for example “Advanced Compression Unlikely to Free Up TV Spectrum for Broadband.”)

“We appreciate your assurances that any reclamation of broadcast television spectrum will be undertaken on a completely voluntary basis,” the letter continued. “We also fervently support the principle that any spectrum reclamation must not force a reduction in the number or quality of services potentially offered by broadcasters or a reduction in number of television homes served by broadcasters.”

The two note that a great deal of money and effort was just spent to transition the nation’s analog TV broadcast infrastructure to digital technology.

“Collectively, untold billions of dollars were invested by broadcasters, government and consumers to ensure America’s leadership edge in digital and high-definition television, and the fruits of those investments are just beginning to be realized.”

They also emphasized that the point-to-multipoint broadcast architecture would be more efficient in the delivery of mobile DTV than would a cell-phone network.

“Our system provides the most spectrally efficient means to meet the demand for high-quality wireless video that is transmitted simultaneously to millions of consumers,” they said.

“This innovation will prove not only beneficial to viewers and television stations; it will also inevitably alleviate congestion experienced on wireless networks due to the increasing demand for mobile video,” the said. “Television broadcasting remains the most efficient way to deliver rich video to the masses, a fact reinforced in local towns and cities during a weather-related crisis, or nationally when President Obama addresses Americans from the Oval Office.” Deborah D. McAdams