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

Risks and Rewards

It seems there’s a bit of confusion over the terms “pirate” and “free” when applied to radio. Some associate piracy with breaking the law, while “free radio” seems to be thought of as some sort of quasi-legal community operation.

The two terms, in the eyes of the law, are one and the same. “Pirate” or “free” radio stations both have one thing in common – they both broadcast without an FCC license, and therefore are illegal operations.

Being a radio “pirate” used to be a compliment, until the movement toward legalization of low-power radio stations began in the United States – then, as more moderate activists joined the scene, the term “pirate” was phased out as being politically incorrect.

Leave the United States, though, and most of the unlicensed stations operating out there will still refer to themselves as “pirates,” and they’re proud of the moniker. Read More