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FCC denies Austin pirate station’s petition to reconsider, stays $15,000 fine

The FCC denied an Austin couple’s petition to reconsider a $15,000 fine for operating an unlicensed radio station.

The move comes almost a year to the day when the FCC first investigated Walter and M. Rae Olenick for running what the FCC said was a pirate radio station.

On Aug. 12, 2013, in response to a complaint about a possible unlicensed station operating on 90.1 MHz, agents from the FCC Enforcement Bureau’s Houston office used direction-finding techniques to locate the source of radio frequency transmissions on the frequency 90.1 MHz.

The source was an antenna atop an approximately 50 feet tall tower mounted to the side of an apartment building in Austin.

Travis County Texas property records, indicated the apartment building was owned by the Olenicks. 

The agents observed a coaxial cable running from the antenna into a room believed to be a non-residential room, such as a utility or maintenance room.

The agents also observed a vehicle, later determined to be registered to Mrs. Olenick, with a bumper sticker stating “Liberty 90.1 FM,” parked in front of the apartment building while the station was on the air. 

The agents conducted field strength measurements and determined that the signal on 90.1 MHz exceeded the limits for operation under Part 15 of the FCC’s rules and therefore required a license. 

The Houston FCC field office issued a warning letter, which advised the Olenicks that the operation of an unlicensed radio station on the frequency 90.1 MHz from their property violated federal law.

The Olenicks replied that they did not deny that they owned the apartment building or operated an unlicensed radio station from the apartment building.  

The letter went on to say they did not consider themselves subject to the laws of the United States, because they stated they expect any future communications to come from the International Bureau only after a “treaty” to which they are “signators” is signed.

On Nov. 19, 2013, agents from the Houston Office again used direction-finding techniques and confirmed that the unlicensed station on 90.1 MHz was still in operation from the antenna mounted atop a tower attached to the Olenick’s apartment building.

FCC documents said “contrary to the Olenicks’ assertion, the commission does not lack jurisdiction over the use of radio transmitting equipment within the State of Texas.” 

The FCC’s base forfeiture amount for operations without an instrument of authorization for the service is $10,000.

An additional $5,000 was added to the fine because the couple ignored FCC’s warnings to cease operations.

This latest move by the FCC comes after the Olenicks filed a motion to reconsider the $15,000 fine.

Questions?  Contact TAB's Michael Schneider or call (512) 322-9944.

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