Network Chiefs Oppose Mobile Unlicensed Devices

Big Four Heads Write FCC Chairman Martin

Broadcasters' fight against allowing unlicensed mobile devices to operate in the digital-TV spectrum band got some high-profile backing.

That came in the form of a letter to Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin from the heads of parent companies of the Big Four television networks: Peter Chernin (News Corp.), Robert Iger (Disney), Leslie Moonves (CBS) and Jeffrey Zucker (NBC Universal).

"As leaders in television broadcasting," they wrote, "we are writing to express our concern over placing

personal and portable unlicensed devices in the digital-television band. As you know, current proposals based on “sensing” to avoid interference could cause permanent damage to over-the-air digital television reception. Interference in the digital world will cause a digital picture to freeze and become unwatchable."

They urged the FCC not to allow unlicensed mobile devices "at this time," arguing instead for a fixed-device system that broadcasters generally support.

Broadcasters have been fighting hard to keep the mobile devices from being adopted. Martin favors allowing them, as do a majority of FCC commissioners. But he said, and the other commmissioners agreed, that it should not come at the expense of DTV reception. Martin said the technology is out there that will not interfere. The FCC is currently testing a new round of the spectrum-sensing devices after the first round of tests showed interference problems.