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Joel Osteen Weighs In On White Spaces

Add mega-church pastor Joel Osteen (Lakewood and Joel Osteen Ministries) to the list of clerics concerned about the white spaces issue, saying the wrong decision by the FCC could cause "immeasurable damage" to his ministry.

The FCC is currently testing prototype unlicensed wireless devices--like laptops and smart radios--to determine how/whether they can be allowed to share the DTV spectrum with TV stations and wireless microphones.

 In a letter Monday to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, Osteen said allowing them would "result in significant harm to the wireless microphone operations we rely on as part of our worship services [for some 40,000 members]."

Osteen points out that he has experience producing the TV broadcasts of the services, which now reach over 7 million people in 139 countries, he says. "Wireless technology plays an ever-increasing role in making this possible."

Oseen says that "static and audio dropout due to interference" could create a "devastating distraction."

The National Religious Broadcasters has already weighed in at the FCC. In his own letter to Martin two weeks ago, NRB president Frank Wright warned that "Christian messages" could be "silenced" if the FCC approves unlicensed devices in the digital-TV "white spaces" without conclusive proof that they will not interfere with TV stations or wireless microphones, a point echoed by Osteen.

The lobbying on the issue has heated up lately, with FCC Chairman Kevin Martin saying he would like to take some action on the issue by the end of the year.

Broadcasters, religious and otherwise, argue that the devices have failed FCC tests and pose a threat to TV reception and would interfere with the microphones used in live TV productions, including a variety of sports. They have allies in theater owners, music producers and churches, who use wireless microphones.

Computer companies and others are pushing just as hard for the devices, which they argue can make more efficient use of the spectrum while advancing the government's interest in expanding wireless broadband connectivity. They say the devices have either passed the FCC tests, or their problems are simply part of the process of refining the devices.