Add mega-church pastor Joel Osteen to the list of clerics concerned about the broadcast industry's 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 share the DTV spectrum with TV stations and wireless microphones.
In a letter last week 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 he claims reach more than 7 million people in 139 countries.
"Wireless technology plays an ever-increasing role in making this possible," he says.
Osteen says "static and audio dropout due to interference" could create a "devastating distraction."
The National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) has already weighed in at the FCC. In a 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.
The lobbying on the issue has heated up lately. Martin says he would like to act on the issue by the end of the year.
Broadcasters, religious and otherwise, argue that the devices have failed FCC tests, pose a threat to TV reception and would interfere with the microphones used in live TV productions, including a variety of sports as well as both televised and non-televised church services. They have allies in theater owners and music producers, who also use wireless microphones.
Computer companies and others are pushing just as hard in favor of the devices, which they claim 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.
The FCC commissioners have generally been supportive of using the "white spaces" ("interference zones," if you are the broadcasters) for advanced wireless technology, but they all include the caveat that the devices cannot interfere with DTV reception just as the nation is switching from analog to digital TV.