Wireless News and FM Auction Update


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In January 2010, the FCC sought comment on the expanded use of wireless microphones on a secondary basis in the current television bands, channels 2 through 51 (excluding channel 37). Previously these operations were allowed in the 700MHz band, which has now been devoted to broadband development.

Since the release of that Further Notice, there have been new developments that will likely impact the use of wireless mics and other low-power devices in vacant spaces on TV channels, and the FCC has now invited a new round of public comment to refresh the record.

Specifically, the Commission has allowed various new uses and devices in the vacant spaces in the television spectrum in the TV White Spaces proceeding. Therein the Commission generally excluded white space devices from two of the unused channels in the UHF TV band near channel 37 so that they would be available for wireless microphones. Certain Low Power Auxiliary Service licensees and wireless microphone users were permitted to register their operations in the TV band databases so as to be protected from white space devices.

More recently, the Commission proposed an incentive auction that may result in the repacking of television into less spectrum than it now enjoys. The repacking process will likely lead to an overall reduction in the vacant spaces available for secondary uses by white space devices and/or wireless microphones, especially in the urban areas where wireless mics are used more frequently.

In light of these changes in the television spectrum environment, the Commission seeks comment on its proposal to expand the categories of eligible users of licensed wireless microphones in these bands under Part 74 of its rules. Such licenses are generally available to broadcasters, MVPD operators, and motion picture and television producers. Additional eligible licensed uses could occur in connection with large public events and venues, such as theaters, sports arenas, entertainment complexes and venues for religious services. The agency would like to consider whether it would be practical and possible to coordinate the use of frequencies among these users through the TV bands database system used to coordinate white space devices.

The FCC also wants to know which entities would be the most practical licensees for such microphones. For example, should the producers or performers of a particular production be required to obtain licenses for their use, or should or the proprietors or managers of the venue? Other questions include whether the Commission should establish licensing criteria such as the need for high quality audio production values; a live production with an audience in attendance (as opposed to a mere rehearsal); and/or a certain required minimum seating capacity in the venue?

Perhaps more significant is the Commission's focus on the whether technological developments could lead to more efficient use of the spectrum. The Commission is seeking comment on the usefulness of equipment that utilizes compression techniques to limit its use of spectrum and has requested information on the technology available to accomplish this. Comments are due by Dec. 21, 2012, and replies by Feb. 19, 2013.

FM Auction Update: The Commission has set the date for FM Auction 94 to commence on April 23, 2013. There will be 112 FM Allotments up for auction, with upfront bids ranging from $750 to $75,000 depending on the projected population to be served. Applications to participate in the auction will be due on Feb. 6, 2013, and a freeze on filing minor change applications will be imposed from Jan. 28, 2013, to Feb. 6, 2013.


FCC Dateline

FCC map

Dec. 1, 2012: Stations in Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma continue running License Renewal Pre-Filing Announcements, continuing on Jan. 1 and 16.

Dec. 16, 2012: Stations in Colorado, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota continue running License Renewal Post-Filing Announcements, continuing on Jan. 1 and 16.


Petro is of counsel at Drinker Biddle & Reath, LLP. Email: lee.petro@dbr.com.




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