Journalists Implore FCC to Preserve Wireless Mic Spectrum

WASHINGTON—A consortium of news organizations is imploring regulators to protect spectrum set aside for wireless microphones.

“Although we compete fiercely with one another rin the field to be the best at what we do, we share one common reality: All electronic newsgatherers rely extensively on wireless microphones to communicate vital information to Americans,” they said in a letter addressed to Federal Communications Commission Acting Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn. “We urge you to preserve the two channels set aside for wireless microphone use in each market…”

Designated wireless mic frequencies were created in the commission’s order opening up TV white spaces to unlicensed devices. The fate of both wireless mic spectrum and white spaces remains uncertain as the FCC hammers out its incentive auction rules and TV band repacking plan. The commission, for example, has proposed using 6 MHz guard bands between TV and wireless services for unlicensed devices. House Republicans, whose primary concern is raising as much money as possible from the auction, question whether 6 MHz guard bands are necessary.

Wireless mics long operated as unlicensed devices in unoccupied TV frequencies with no issues. When those frequencies were opened up for other types of devices in 2010, wireless mic users lobbied and received interference protection in the form of designated channels.

“We hope for nothing but success as the auction goes forward,” the newsgathers said, “but as the commission considers these complex issues, especially as it assesses an appropriate band plan for future broadcast and wireless services, it concerns us that little or no apparent effort is underway to preserve the current spectrum that wireless microphones rely on for interference-free service.”

Co-signers included Fox TV Stations, CBS, the National Association of Broadcasters, ABC, Fox News, Univision and most of the major TV station groups.

“Given that the band plan discussions do not appear to contemplate a future with clean spectrum for microphones, we fear that the commission inadvertently may be heading down a path that puts newsgathering at risk.”