NAB Says Mics Need More Space

The National Association of Broadcasters wants the FCC to preserve some exclusive spectrum space for wireless mics, which have already had to do with less following the DTV transition.

"Given the scope of displacement that has already occurred, and the additional displacement that the FCC’s decisions concerning the incentive auction will create, it is critical for the FCC to immediately identify new bands on which wireless microphones may operate," NAB said in comments to the FCC on its incentive auction proposals affecting wireless mics.

Currently, there are two reserved channels in each market for wireless mics (a total of 12 MHz) and sometimes local broadcasters need even more spectrum than that. Under the FCC's May incentive auction proposal, there is no spectrum reserved exclusively for wireless mics, though there is spectrum in the duplex gap—between wireless upload and download spectrum—that wireless mics can use, though it will have to be shared with unlicensed devices.

The Radio Television Digital News Association has said that using the duplex gap poses potential interference issues, particularly in emergency situations when the media's ability to disseminate information is critical.

"As NAB previously explained, the Commission’s decision to eliminate these two reserved channels following the incentive auction and repacking will significantly harm broadcasters’ newsgathering operations and the viewing public," NAB said in the filing. Requiring the sharing of the duplex gap only compounds the problem, said NAB.

Then there is the fact that some TV stations may have to be relocated in the gap as well, in which case there will be no exclusive wireless mic spectrum.

NAB wants the FCC to find a new band for wireless mics given the impact of repacking and unlicensed use on the current band, and do so before the incentive auction. They should also be able to keep using the 600 MHz band until the FCC has identified new spectrum space and wireless bidders are actually ready to deploy. Currently, the FCC gives them 39 months after the auction, but NAB says that should be open ended. "There is no reason to require wireless microphones to cease operations until the spectrum on which they operate is actually put to use by wireless carriers."

"While the FCC professes to understand the importance of wireless microphones, the reality is that no spectrum user has lost more and gained less in this proceeding than wireless microphones."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.