Heat Surrounding Alex Jones Grows as Pirate Radio Outlet Fined
(Bloomberg) -- Right-wing provocateur Alex Jones has had programming knocked off Facebook, Google and other online platforms after it was deemed hate speech. Now the operators of a Texas radio station in his Texas hometown that carried his show are facing legal action.
Federal prosecutors on Aug. 10 asked a court to compel payment of a $15,000 penalty by Walter Olenick and M. Rae Nadler-Olenick, who were accused in 2014 by the Federal Communications Commission of operating a radio station without a license on 90.1 FM in Austin.
The station carried Alex Jones’s programming, but that’s irrelevant to the legal action, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai told lawmakers Thursday.
“Our pirate radio enforcement efforts, including this one, have nothing to do with the content that pirate radio stations air,” Pai said at a hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee. “We act against pirate radio stations because they are violating the law by broadcasting on the FM airwaves without a license.”
Pai said the operators received a warning “yet refused to come into compliance.”
According to correspondence entered into the court record by prosecutors, the defendants responded to notices from the FCC with letters that didn’t deny broadcasting without a license, and claimed ownership of a 50-foot tower with an antenna seen at their property.
The defendants rejected federal jurisdiction, characterizing a demand for payment as being an offer like “Monte Hall’s ‘Let’s Make a Deal!’ " In another passage defendants said a federal official is “cruisin’ for a bruisin’."
The Justice Department in its complaint said a vehicle at the Austin address bore a bumper sticker reading “Liberty 90.1 FM,” and the Austin American-Statesman newspaper, which earlier reported the lawsuit, said Liberty Radio had used that frequency. Religious programming was airing on it Wednesday, the newspaper reported.
On its Facebook page, Texas Liberty Radio said the tower “was taken down as part of a real estate deal.” Jones didn’t broadcast from the station, which relayed his shows from a syndicator, according to the Facebook post.
Texas Liberty Radio on its web page lists a contact through a local business, and a call seeking to contact the Olenicks wasn’t returned. Neither was an email to Jones seeking comment.
Technology companies have been under pressure to ban Jones for spreading conspiracy theories such as the claim that the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012 was staged by the government, and that the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the U.S. was an “inside job.”
Jones has since said that he believes Sandy Hook “really happened” and that the families are being used by the Democratic Party and the news media, according to The Associated Press.
Twitter has temporarily limited Jones’s account after he tweeted a link to a video that violated company policies against abusive behavior. Facebook Inc. and Google’s YouTube pulled the conspiracy theorist off their platforms after concluding that his content violates hate speech and harassment policies.
And Spotify Technology SA removed some podcasts of “The Alex Jones Show” from its service because they violated the streaming company’s hate-speech policies and subscribers complained.
Pai has called fighting pirate radio a top enforcement priority. Licenses are required in order to prevent interference, and to ensure the fair distribution of scarce airwaves.
The case is USA v. Walter Olenick et al, U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, No. 18-000675.
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