A religious television channel that has encouraged viewers to liquidate their retirement savings and charge up credit cards to make donations in the name of God may learn on Monday whether it answers to Canada's broadcast regulator as a higher power.

The Miracle Channel, which is carried across the country on cable, is expected to be questioned about its fundraising methods when it appears before the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.

At the heart of the debate are statements by on-air hosts during past fundraising drives. In one of the most controversial examples, a host told viewers in 2004 to cash in their Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSP) for donations.

"There is somebody right now watching, and God is speaking to them about RRSPs. They've got RRSPs, and they've got a sizable amount, and it's a security thing. Well, it's not a security thing; your security is in God. And God's speaking to you to cash those in. And I dare you to do it," the host said.

Owners of the station have applied for the right to set up transmitters in Calgary and Edmonton that would broadcast the channel over the air for free, an important move that would allow it to reach more viewers.

A CRTC hearing starting Monday will consider the application to expand the station's broadcasting power. But the regulator will also look into whether The Miracle Channel has adequately responded to complaints about high-pressure tactics and promises of a windfall after money is given.

The Lethbridge, Alta.-based station raises millions of dollars a year through public fundraising drives, and has donors from around the country. But it has also been involved in a lengthy wrangle with the CRTC over its fundraising.

In a letter sent last week to the Miracle Channel Association [MCA], which operates the station, the CRTC said its "approach to solicitation of funds" will be discussed at the Calgary hearings.

"Encouraging viewers to donate does not pose a problem in itself; however, manipulating viewers into giving to the station is not acceptable and will not be tolerated in any circumstances," the CRTC said.

Other statements, including one in which a viewer who didn't have cash to donate is praised for charging $5,000 to a credit card, have drawn further complaints.

Many have come from Tim Thibault, an ordained minister in Saskatchewan who once gave more than $1,000 to The Miracle Channel, but is now challenging its methods.

The CRTC asked The Miracle Channel to revise its internal fundraising policy last year. Gordon Klassen, vice-president of broadcasting for the station, who has dealt with the regulator, could not be reached for comment, but the CRTC acknowledged last week that the channel has taken steps to rewrite its policies.

In a letter to the CRTC, Mr. Klassen said the channel's on-air hosts have been "instructed to qualify their statements to ensure that viewers understand clearly the theological principles of giving in such a way as to prevent miscommunication or exaggeration of what a gift will or will not accomplish."

Mr. Thibault maintains the channel is still pressuring viewers, despite the new policies.

A five-day fundraising campaign that wrapped up last week and raised more than $900,000, according to the station's figures, involved several questionable statements, he alleges.

"They've avoided the blatant statements, and they've now come out with a method where they're saying the same thing, they're just taking a little longer to say it." Mr. Thibault said.

"What they're doing is they're basically pushing the CRTC, and testing out their different ways of being able to fundraise."

Mr. Thibault began donating to the station several years ago, hoping prayer from the channel could reverse the fortunes of his struggling computer business in Humboldt, Sask. He now suggests he was mistakenly enchanted by the fundraising drives.

The Miracle Channel has said previously that Mr. Thibault is trying to stir up controversy, and is intolerant of its fundraising efforts, which collect money that is given to charities and used to support some of its operations.

But the CRTC acknowledged in its letter last week that it believes there is basis for some of Mr. Thibault's concerns.

Under Canadian law, the CRTC lacks the power to sanction broadcasters if they are found to have run afoul of the rules. It can pull a broadcaster's licence, but that step is considered a last-resort option.

However, the CRTC can exercise its power during licence hearings, and can refuse to grant concessions to a licence holder if the regulator believes the broadcaster is not complying with federal rules.