POLITICS

FCC Shuts Down Pirate Radio Station Known For Airing Alex Jones Shows

Liberty Radio in Austin, Texas, had broadcast the far-right conspiracy theorist’s show without a license for years.

The Federal Communications Commission has forced a pirate radio station off the air in Austin, Texas, that was known for rebroadcasting shows from far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. 

The station, Liberty Radio, was also slapped with a $15,000 fine after operating from an apartment complex without federal approval since at least 2013, according to the Austin American-Statesman. The owners of the building have refused to pay the penalty, saying they are “not subject to the jurisdiction of the FCC,” according to court filings obtained by the newspaper. It’s unclear if the shutdown is permanent.

The FCC, which manages the nation’s radio licenses, said agents were able to track down the rogue transmissions to a building owned by Walter Olenick and M. Rae Nadler-Olenick, who are named as defendants in a lawsuit filed Aug. 10 in federal court.

The building has a 50-foot tower that had broadcast audio on the 90.1 FM wavelength until at least December of last year, although the station’s programming still streams online. Aside from Jones’ show, Liberty Radio also aired programs including “The Vaccine Myth,” “War Room” and “Power Hour Nation,” according to myStatesman.com.

The Austin American-Statesman, which first published news of the lawsuit, initially referred to Liberty Radio as Jones’ local “flagship” station, as did HuffPost. NPR notes that while Jones himself isn’t affiliated with Liberty Radio’s 90.1 FM station, the frequency has long been known locally as a source for his content. The Austin Chronicle reported in 2014 that some referred to the channel by the nickname “Alex Jones Radio.”

FCC chairman Ajit Pai addressed the crackdown on Thursday during testimony before the Senate commerce committee, noting that the action had “nothing to do with the content of pirate radio stations on air.”

“We act against pirate radio station because they are violating the law by broadcasting on the FM airwaves without a license,” Pai said.

Prior to the lawsuit, the FCC told the pirate station in 2014 that it would levy the $15,000 fine but gave Liberty Radio 30 days to appeal.

“We decline your offer, as we have from the outset, and we will forever decline your offer,” the station responded. The case was later passed to the Justice Department, which filed the suit last week.

The news is the latest blow to Jones, a conspiracy theorist known for pushing bizarre claims, including that the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School was a hoax. He is currently being sued by several parents of the victims for defamation.

Jones and his website, Infowars, have been banned by several major companies in recent weeks. Google took down his YouTube channels, Apple banned several podcasts from iTunes, and Spotify, Vimeo, Facebook and Pinterest have followed suit.

Jones’ personal Twitter account was suspended for seven days on Tuesday after he urged his viewers to get their “battle rifles” ready. The social media giant, which has so far declined to ban him, said the tweet violated the company’s rules barring the incitement of violence.

This story has been updated to include comments Ajit Pai made Thursday. 

Clarification: Language in this story has been amended to clarify that while the station was known in Austin for rebroadcasting Jones’ shows, it was not officially affiliated with him. 

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