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Broadcasters seek mobile deadline delay

The broadcast industry is asking the FCC to delay a 2002 deadline for negotiating compensation agreements with mobile satellite companies, which must pay stations for a swath of the spectrum now used to beam news, sports and other programming from off-site locations back to studios.

Last year the FCC gave broadcasters in the 30 largest markets two years to negotiate compensation agreements with the satellite companies that are slated to move into a portion of the electronic newsgathering spectrum. If no deals are struck during 2002, the satellite licensees may force broadcasters to leave involuntarily.

This week the Association for Maximum Service Television and the National Association of Broadcasters complained that the satellite companies are in such dire financial condition that they cannot afford to strike deals and are simply hoping to receive the valuable spectrum for free by waiting until the deadline.

Recognizing the satellite companies' dilemma, the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association has asked the FCC to allow terrestrial services to be used in the band. Until CTIA's petition is decided, broadcasters say the FCC should suspend the countdown.

"The broadcast auxiliary service is critical to providing coverage of local, live on-the-spot coverage of live local news and sporting events," said David Donovan, MSTV president. - Bill McConnell