Pop, country fight frequency grab

MTV, Grand Ole Opry urge regulators on wireless issue

WASHINGTON -- The Grand Ole Opry and MTV may be at opposite ends of the music spectrum, but they are part of a coalition urging federal regulators to stand up to a frequency grab by Microsoft and Google that could render wireless microphones useless.

In papers filed at the FCC Tuesday, a coalition that includes the Opry, Country Music Television, the Country Music Assn. and MTV Networks contends that allowing millions of wireless devices to use the same frequencies as wireless microphones would be a "catastrophe."

"We know all too well that there is no 'second chance' to redo a live performance," said Opry music director and broadcast producer Steve Gibson. "The white spaces proposals being considered by the FCC could turn 'Music City' into a silent city unless they get it right. As it stands, these proposals will not provide critical protection to the wireless microphone systems that are integral to every show."

While the fight over the use of so-called "white spaces" -- the vacant areas between broadcast channels -- has been raging between broadcasters and the high-technology companies, the live music industry has been quietly concerned over the problem the new unlicensed devices could cause.

Tuesday's filing marks the first time the Opry, CMT, CMA, MTVN, Fitzgerald Hartley (management for Vince Gill and LeAnn Rimes), SGTV (producer for the Dove Awards) and SeisMic Sound (audio engineers for the CMT Video Music Awards and the Dove Awards) have raised their voices in unison to oppose the development.

A coalition of high-tech companies, including Microsoft, Intel, Google and Dell, want to use white spaces as a way to connect such products as digital cameras and music players to the Web.

Proponents of the technology argue that TV-spectrum-based Internet service could be less expensive and more accessible than current phone and fiber-optic lines, forcing other high-speed Web service providers to lower their prices.

But broadcasters have argued that the devices being tested that are supposed to seek out the white spaces simply don't work. Their arguments have been backed up by tests at the FCC, though the companies keep trying.
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