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Spanish-language broadcasters caution FCC chairman about TV white space devices

Univision, Telemundo, Entravision and TuVision sent a letter to FCC chairman Kevin Martin Sept. 6 expressing their concern about allowing unlicensed personal and portable TV-band devices to transmit on DTV channels.

The Spanish-language broadcasters urged the commission not to allow the devices to operate on the TV band “until it can be conclusively demonstrated that they will not interfere with broadcast operations.”

Reports released in late July from the FCC Office of Engineering and Technology detailing the results of initial tests of prototype TV band devices showed a general inability to reliably detect the presence of TV signals — an essential requirement for such devices to find an unoccupied TV channel on which to operate.

Hispanic households are bigger users of over-the-air television reception than the general population, the letter said. As a result, harmful interference from unlicensed TV band devices will have “a disproportionately harmful impact on Hispanic viewers,” the letter said.

The broadcasters backed up this assertion with statistics from the Houston market, which they said were representative of what happens in many markets around the country. According to the letter, 459,852 homes, or 23.2 percent of the total, receive over-the-air TV. Of those, 290,000, or 58.9 percent, are Hispanic homes.

The letter also pointed out that allowing personal and portable devices to share the TV band would undermine the government’s DTV converter box coupon program.