Fri, Oct 13, 2017 - Page 7 News List

Trump touts NBC license challenge

LACKING THE AUTHORITY:The FCC, which regulates broadcast networks, said its role in overseeing program content was ‘very limited’ and censorship was off limits

Reuters, WASHINGTON

US President Donald Trump suggested challenging licenses for NBC and other broadcast news networks following reports by NBC News that US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had called him a “moron” after a discussion of the US nuclear arsenal.

“With all of the Fake News coming out of NBC and the Networks, at what point is it appropriate to challenge their License? Bad for country!” Trump on Wednesday wrote in a post on Twitter.

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.

Trump kept up his criticism of the media in an appearance with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, saying: “It is frankly disgusting the press is able to write whatever it wants to write.”

“Network news has become so partisan, distorted and fake that licenses must be challenged and, if appropriate, revoked. Not fair to public!” Trump said in a tweet late on Wednesday.

However, any move to challenge media companies’ licenses, would likely face significant hurdles.

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC), an independent federal agency, does not license broadcast networks, but issues them to individual broadcast stations that are renewed on a staggered basis for eight-year periods.

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

A Comcast spokeswoman referred questions to NBC, which did not immediately respond.

ABC, owned by Walt Disney Co, declined to comment.

Shares in media companies fell, potentially reflecting concerns that the war of words could worsen. Comcast was down 0.8 percent.

Recon Analytics analyst Roger Entner called the market response a “short-term irrational knee-jerk reaction” and said Trump faced essentially insurmountable hurdles to getting licenses pulled.

A spokesman for FCC Chairman Ajit Pai did not immediately comment.

US National Association of Broadcasters chief executive Gordon Smith defended the media’s right to freedom of speech.

“It is contrary to this fundamental right for any government official to threaten the revocation of an FCC license simply because of a disagreement with the reporting of a journalist,” Smith said in a statement.

Numerous Democrats criticized Trump and urged Pai to denounce Trump’s comments.

US Senator Ed Markey wrote Pai on Wednesday, asking him to “withstand any urges from President Trump to harm the news media and infringe upon the First Amendment” of the US constitution, which guarantees free speech and freedom of the press.

Trump “seemed to threaten broadcasters’ licenses only because he disagreed with their reporting. This threat alone could intimidate the press and lead to skewed and unfair reporting,” US Representative Frank Pallone said

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel responded to Trump by tweeting a link to a commission factsheet.

“Not how it works,” she said on Twitter.

When reviewing licenses, the FCC must determine if a renewal is in the public interest, the factsheet on the agency’s Web site said.

The FCC expects “station licensees to be aware of the important problems and issues facing their local communities and to foster public understanding by presenting programming that relates to those local issues,” the factsheet said.

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