The agency attracted criticism, and praise, for removing the right-wing commentator from the airwaves, Pai said in testimony this morning before the Senate.
“It is important to make clear that our pirate radio enforcement efforts — including this one — have nothing to do with the content of pirate radio stations air,” Pai said. “We act against pirate radio station because they are violating the law by broadcasting on the FM airwaves without a license.”
The FCC’s enforcement actions against pirate radio stations don’t normally make national news. The federal government’s suit against the operators of Liberty Radio attracted attention because the rogue station, operating out a maintenance building in an Austin apartment complex, aired the controversial The Alex Jones Show. Jones has been banned from a number social media platforms.
The federal agency sent Walter and Rae Olenick multiple letters since 2013, warning of the dire consequences of broadcasting without a license, including fines, seizure of equipment and even criminal sanctions. It called upon the operators of Liberty Radio to “cease immediately.”
The Olenicks responded that the agency lacked jurisdiction and to “kindly never bother us with your harassment … again.”
The FCC imposed a $15,000 fine on the Olenicks in 2014 for their willful and repeated violations, which they refused to pay. The U.S. attorney filed suit Friday in U.S. District Court in Austin, asking the court to enforce the penalty.
Liberty Radio disappeared on Wednesday, replaced by religious programming.
The Texas Liberty Radio’s website informed listeners that “due to circumstances beyond our control,” its broadcast tower no longer was available as of December. It suggested alternate ways to tune in, via streaming apps such as TuneIn, WinAmp or Shoutcast or by calling the “listen line.”