Clear Alternative

Clear Channel system addresses newsgathering woes

The FCC's hunt for spectrum has news departments scrambling for ways to transmit video from the field as bandwidth shrinks. Most are experimenting with digital microwave systems that rely on COFDM-based transmission to solve the spectrum crunch and enhance efficiency. Some have already rolled out COFDM gear in their news vans. Others are looking for wireless alternatives to microwave transmission.

The current COFDM systems are a little pricey. Or so says Mike DeClue, senior VP/director of engineering for Clear Channel's satellite division, adding, "The confusion and uncertainty about ENG band," he says, "doesn't lend itself to spending a lot of money."

But Clear Channel Television thinks it has found an electronic-newsgathering solution within its parent company. Clear Channel Satellite has developed a portable digital satellite system that has been used by government customers for several years. Clear Channel will demonstrate it at NAB and expects to make it commercially available by midyear.

The 1-meter pod goes on an SUV or sedan to provide an Ethernet connection via satellite to the studio. Transmission rates are 500 kbps; DeClue hopes that will expand to 1 Mbps by the end of the year.

He admits that 500 kbps isn't enough bandwidth to transmit high-quality MPEG-2 video. But MPEG-4 or next-generation

technology like Microsoft Windows Media 9 is more efficient, he points out. The satellite system can also send non-real-time video using the FTP file-transfer protocol.

"I have every confidence that the satellite system will be able to perform most of the functions of an ENG system," says DeClue.

He cites an additional benefit: Unlike a microwave truck, the Clear Channel system doesn't require a licensed operator to use it.