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College sports producer joins fight against use of spectrum white space

A leading producer of broadcast and multimedia programming for 35 college athletic programs has joined the growing lobbying effort to restrict the use of spectrum white space for unlicensed wireless devices.

Learfield Sports, a provider of college sports programming to hundreds of broadcasters, has joined the Sports Technology Alliance and several broadcast trade organizations in opposing the FCC’s plan.

“Sports programming relies extensively on wireless microphones and related audio equipment in its production and distribution,” wrote Greg Brown, president of Learfield Sports, to members of the FCC. “Therefore, due to our reliance on wireless technology in producing broadcasts for...athletic programs, we urge the commission to not allow unlicensed personal portable devices to operate in the broadcast spectrum.”

The FCC has proposed using spectrum between digital TV channels to deploy a new generation of wireless broadband devices. Leading consumer electronics manufacturers and computer companies, including Intel, Dell, HP, Microsoft and Google, are backing the plan.

In June, the Sports Technology Alliance, which includes the NFL, NCAA, NBA, MLB, PGA Tour, NASCAR and ESPN, stated its opposition to the FCC plan. In addition to wireless microphones, there’s worry that interference from unlicensed radio devices could harm wireless headset systems used for communications by coaches and game officials.

The athletic groups want the FCC to designate certain spectrum as off limits to new stationary TV band devices; adopt technical solutions to prevent interference at super-scale sporting events; use geolocation to insure that fixed devices do not cause interference; and to test any unlicensed wireless consumer devices to ensure they will not cause interference before they are made available to the public.

Beyond the sports organizations, an alliance of broadcast trade groups and digital television set manufacturers is lobbying Congress and the FCC to stop the white space initiative. The groups have begun running a TV spot and print ads to advocate their arguments.

The issue will be discussed in detail at the upcoming Audio Engineering Society (AES) convention, in New York, on Saturday, Oct. 6, 4-5 p.m., in a session entitled “White Space status Report.”