FCC Sues Unlicensed Station to Collect Fine

This is unusual: the Federal Communications Commission has instigated a civil lawsuit in the Western District Court of Texas against Walter Olenick and M. Rae Nadler-Olenick, the proprietors of “Texas Liberty Radio,” which until late last year occupied 90.1 FM in Austin, Texas.

The facts are fairly clear: sometime in 2013, the FCC received a complaint about Texas Liberty Radio’s existence. That August, field agents from Houston traveled to Austin and found the station, measured its power, and confirmed it did not have a license. The recently-filed court documents contain some hand-written notes from field agents about the station, including the possible apartment it was broadcasting from, license plate numbers of cars in the parking lot, and notes on the station’s programming, which field agents noted included stuff from “Alex Jones” and “infowars.” Read More

Radio in Times of Crises

When flooding rains pounded Texas earlier this summer, many communities found themselves in crisis. With wired network infrastructures flooded and unusable and power a sometimes-thing draining the battery-packs at cell tower-sites, many Texans found themselves reaching for their radio to find out what was going on.

One area that was hit very hard by the rains was Austin and surrounding towns, including Wimberley, Texas: flash-flooding sent a wall of water down the Blanco River in the Wimberley Valley on Memorial Day weekend that swept away entire structures, killing several people and doing millions of dollars in damage. Just a couple of years earlier, folks there had founded a non-profit organization to apply for an LPFM license. Construction permit in hand, when the rains came and wiped out most other community communications they did not stand idly by. Read More

Telling it to the Judge

Regional Battles, National Goal

While the June 2001 court victory for Connecticut’s Prayze FM was an important event in the ongoing legal battle between pirate broadcasters and the Federal Communications Commission, it is only one front in a broader challenge to FCC authority currently taking place in the courts.

The Prayze case deserves special mention because of its fundamental attacks on both the FCC’s new low power FM (LPFM) licensing rules and on the general enforcement strategy the agency employs against the free radio movement. It is not the first station to attempt draw governmental blood in the courts, nor is it the only one finding success.

There are at least a half-dozen court cases wending their way through the federal judicial system at the moment. It is important to remember that there are basically three levels of activity in the federal court system: the District Court (where all cases begin), the Appeals Court (who can either uphold, reverse, or remand District Court judge rulings), and the Supreme Court (the ultimate arbiter of chosen disputes). Read More

The Dark Side Regroups

Life has not been kind to the microbroadcaster as of late – it’s almost as if the radio industry is goading free radio fighters into a conflict when the two camps clash head-on next week in San Francisco.

First came word early this month that Micro Kind Radio, a microradio station in San Marcos, Texas – who’s been on the air 24 hours a day seven days a week since 1997 – has been shut down due to a temporary federal court injunction.

This showdown was long in coming: more than two years ago, after unsuccessfully attempting to intimidate one of the founders of Micro Kind with an $11,000 fine, the FCC served Kind with a cease and desist order. The station responded by filing a lawsuit of its own claiming the FCC’s licensing rules ran afoul of the First Amendment right to freedom of speech. Read More