You’ve got to fight for your right to white space


A coalition of professional and amateur sports organizations, and ESPN, are taking exception to the notion that the white spaces between television stations are unoccupied. On the contrary, they are used for various in-game communications by coaches, players and referees, and for broadcast purposes as well. They’re telling the FCC not to move on unlicensed devices unless and until it is proven they will do no harm. Along with ESPN, the coalition includes the National Football League, Major League Baseball, the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League, the National Collegiate Athletic Association, and the PGA Tour.

“We are deeply troubled by the crippling disruption and harm that portable devices will cause to live sports events.  These devices could knock out wireless communications systems like headsets used by coaches and officials, microphones used by referees to announce penalties and calls, and microphones used by journalists to conduct interviews with athletes and coaches,” said Ken Kerschbaumer, executive director of the Sports Video Group , on behalf of the Sports Technology Alliance

They note that some of the proposals put the burden on those facing potential harm, asking that they be required to install “beacons” on their wireless mics to allow unlicensed devices to detect their presence. In addition to ducking what should be its own responsibility, the proponents are putting it forth even though it is a completely unproven “notion” of how to handle the problem.

The coalition says 300 wireless mics are in use at a typical major sporting event, and if they are crippled by unlicensed devices, hundreds of millions of sports fans are the ultimate losers.

RBR/TVBR observation: It is difficult to believe that any new proposals involving the surviving television spectrum are being seriously entertained on the very doorstep of the digital era. Luckily, a series of failed tests by the proposed white space invaders have delayed any action until well after 2/17/09. We suggest that the rhetoric be cooled down while the science is either perfected or proven impractical.