President Donald Trump’s suggestion that the Federal Communications Commission revoke NBC’s broadcast license was dismissed by the agency six days after his tweet, because, as Chairman Ajit Pai said, the FCC has no authority to do so.
Last week, the president urged the FCC in a tweet to consider challenging the network’s license after it published a story which he maintained was false.
“Under the law, the FCC does not have the authority to revoke a license of a broadcast station based on the content of a particular newscast,” the chairman said, adding that under his leadership “the FCC will stand for the First Amendment.”
Under the First Amendment, freedom of speech and freedom of the press are guaranteed.
Pai was pushed by Democrats to reject the president’s suggestion that the FCC threaten NBC’s license after reports that the president had asked for a bigger nuclear arsenal. They urged Pai to “condemn this attack and reassure our nation and our journalists that you will stand up for them,” The Hill reports.
Trump has often called media reports “fake news” without providing proof they were not true. When asked whether the commission can determine what constitutes “fake news”, the chairman of the FCC said, “traditionally that has not been within the FCC jurisdiction.”
His statement was criticized by Senator Brian Schatz, who points out the FCC needs to be defended against political interference.
The FCC does not grant licenses to broadcast networks, but only to individual broadcast stations on an eight-year period and renews them based on whether they are in the public interest. If a station exercises its First Amendments rights, courts say, their license cannot be challenged.