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Broadcasters urge FCC to maintain wireless mic status quo

Major broadcast groups, networks, associations and other broadcast-related organizations have written FCC acting chairwoman Mignon Clyburn asking that the regulatory agency maintain the status quo of reserving two channels in each TV market for wireless mic use as the commission moves forward with its incentive auction and repacking of TV spectrum.

The letter, dated Aug. 13, is signed by more than 25 media entities, including ABC, FOX Television Stations, CBS, Belo, Gray Television, Hearst Television, Scripps and Sinclair Broadcast Group.

It reminded Clyburn of the important role journalists play reporting breaking stories from remote locations, often in the face of threatening situation such as tornadoes, hurricanes and even terrorist attacks.

“In many ways, electronic newsgatherers serve today as the first wave of first responders in times of local or national emergency,” the letter said. “Broadcast and cable television viewers, radio listeners and online multimedia consumers across the country rely on live news to stay informed and, more importantly, to stay safe.”

A critical component of that coverage is interference-free wireless microphone operation. “These devices — typically operating at just 50mW and utilizing just a sliver of precious spectrum — serve a central but underappreciated function in the dissemination of news and information,” the letter said.

The letter from the broadcasters comes as the FCC moves forward on an incentive auction intended to clear TV spectrum for mobile broadband services. Following the auction, broadcasters choosing to stay on air will be packed into a narrower swath of spectrum. The letter directly addresses the auction, repack and focus of the FCC as it proceeds.

“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,” the letter said.

The letter urged the FCC to ensure that following the conclusion of the auction that “electronic news gatherers maintain the same ability they have today to use wireless microphones without risk of interference.”

The letter was submitted by: FOX Television Stations, CBS, RTDNA, NAB, Time Warner, ABC, FOX News, Univision, Allbritton Communications, Barrington Broadcasting, Belo, Delmarva Broadcasting, Gray Television, Hearst Television, Local TV, London Broadcasting, Mission Broadcasting, Nexstar Broadcasting Group, Raycom Media, ST, Schurz, Scripps, Sinclair Broadcast Group, Tribune Broadcasting, NYSBA, California Oregon Broadcasting, WNET and Journal Broadcast Group.