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Google move threatens NFL sideline reports from Erin Andrews, Pam Oliver

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Google and Microsoft, eager to get more broadband for wireless devices, are pushing the FCC to open up two channels set aside for wireless TV microphones, a move the television industry believes would cause such interference that it would jeopardize one of the viewing public's favorite elements of NFL games--sideline reports from Pam Oliver, Erin Andrews and others.

In a letter this week to the Federal Communications Commission, several networks including Fox, ABC and CBS, said that sharing the broadcast spectrum would interfere with the clear channels needed for wireless microphones, which are also used by on-scene TV reporters.

"We fear that the commission inadvertently may be heading down a path that puts newsgathering at risk," the August 13 letter said. "Without two reserved channels for wireless microphones, it would be virtually impossible to guarantee an interference-free experience for news gatherers in large markets," added the letter, provided to Secrets on Wednesday.

Two channels in each market are reserved for wireless TV microphones.

The letter comes as the FCC is moving toward an auction of parts of the broadcast spectrum.

It also comes as the viewing public is paying attention to remote TV reports covering stories such as the wildfires in the West, flooding in the Midwest, and the rescue of 16-year-old Hannah Anderson from the Idaho wilderness.

And as the NFL season begins, viewers are also eager to hear sideline reports from the newswomen assigned to cover the field. Dennis Wharton, a spokesman for the National Association of Broadcasters, said letting internet providers share the two channels reserved for TV wireless microphones could scramble those sideline reports.

In an earlier letter to the FCC, however, Google and Microsoft provided evidence that sharing the two channels wouldn't impact NFL sideline reports. For proof, they did a test in which wireless microphones were tested on the same channel as one used to broadcast local TV, and no interference was found.

One of the tests took place at FedEx Field, the Landover, Md., home to the Washington Redskins football team. "In fact," the tech giants said, "one of the channels used by wireless microphones at FedEx Field was the very channel used to carry the high definition broadcast of the football game taking place that day."

The broadcasters, however, warned the FCC that the threat to clear communications remains.

"The current two-channel safe harbor has allowed wireless microphones to serve as an absolutely essential link in the emergency response chain for many Americans. The commission should not take lightly the risk of interference depriving consumers of audio from breaking news and emergency events," they wrote.

Paul Bedard, The Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at pbedard@washingtonexaminer.com.