FCC Chairman Says He Supports Free Speech But Does Not Condemn Trump

by Ray Hunter October 18, 2017, 0:25
FCC Chairman Says He Supports Free Speech But Does Not Condemn Trump

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said that the agency lacked authority to revoke the license of a broadcast station based on the the content of a newscast, in his first comments on the topic since President Donald Trump's tweets last week. The former NBC star lashed out at the network last week, after NBC News ran a report that Trump had allegedly inquired about increasing the United States nuclear arsenal "nearly tenfold" back in July, preceding Secretary of State Rex Tillerson supposedly calling him a "moron" and threatening to quit.

Trump and his supporters have repeatedly used the term "fake news" to cast doubt on media reports critical of his administration, often without providing any evidence to support their case that the reports were untrue. "It's important for all the commissioners to make clear that they support the First Amendment, and that agency will not revoke a broadcast license simply because the president is dissatisfied with the licensee's coverage".

"Chairman Pai was right to assure the public that the FCC can not revoke any broadcast licenses based on the content of a specific newscast", he said, "but I am disappointed that the Chairman continues to remain silent on the President's ongoing efforts to intimidate and threaten news outlets".

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An FCC spokeswoman confirmed to the The Daily Caller News Foundation that Pai's comments were made Tuesday during an event at the Mercatus Center.

"This statement is better than nothing, but it is merely a reiteration of the FCC's authorities under the law", Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) said in a statement issued today.

That proposal, like Trump's assertion that "licenses must be challenged and, if appropriate, revoked" in response to "partisan, distorted and fake" news coverage, is obviously anathema to the First Amendment. "What we needed is a full-throated defense of the independence of the FCC against political interference", he said. Pai said "traditionally that has not been within the FCC jurisdiction".

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Comcast, which owns NBC Universal, also owns 11 broadcast stations, including outlets in New York, Washington, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, Dallas and Chicago.

The FCC doesn't issue broadcast licenses to networks, but it does issue licenses to individual stations.

When reviewing licenses the FCC must determine if a renewal is in the public interest. Sunday, another FCC commissioner, Jessica Rosenworcel, had said on a TV news program that "history won't be kind to silence" about possible threats to the First Amendment.

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