FCC doesn't have authority to revoke license over content, says chairman

FCC doesn't have authority to revoke license over content, says chairman
© Greg Nash

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) doesn’t have the authority to revoke a broadcast network’s license based on content, Chairman Ajit Pai said Tuesday in response to President Trump’s call on it to challenge NBC’s FCC licenses.

“I believe in the first amendment. The FCC under my leadership, will stand for the first amendment,” Pai said in response to a question about calls from Trump to revoke the licenses of broadcasters who, according to the president, broadcast “fake news.”

“Under the law, the FCC does not have the authority to revoke license of a broadcast station based on content of a program,” Pai, who was appointed by Trump as FCC chairman, said at an AT&T policy event.


The FCC Chairman also stressed that it is “not within the FCC’s jurisdiction to handle fake news.”

Trump tweeted last week that NBC’s broadcasting license should be challenged and potentially revoked after it published a story that said he had called for the nation’s nuclear stockpile to be increased by a factor of 10.

“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 tweeted in response.

“Network news has become so partisan, distorted and fake that licenses must be challenged and, if appropriate, revoked. Not fair to public!” he wrote in a separate tweet.

Trump’s tweet immediately drew criticism from both Democratic and Republican politicians.

“Not how it works,” Democratic FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel tweeted in response to the president.


Sens. Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzOn The Money: Stocks fall as COVID-19 fears rattle market | Schumer sets infrastructure showdown | Dems struggle to sell agenda The Hill's Morning Report - Surging COVID-19 infections loom over US, Olympics Democrats ramp up spending sales pitch MORE (D-Hawaii), Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyEquilibrium/ Sustainability — Presented by NextEra Energy — Olympics medals made of mashed up smartphones Lawmakers urge Biden to make 'bold decisions' in nuclear review OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Democrats lay out vision for Civilian Climate Corps | Manchin to back controversial public lands nominee | White House details environmental justice plan MORE (D-Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) also released statements and letters blasting the President’s tweet.

“As FCC Chairman, sworn to uphold both the Constitution and the Communications Act, you have a duty to condemn this attack and reassure our nation and our journalists that you will stand up for them and protect and defend their fundamental freedoms," Blumenthal wrote in a letter to the Chairman on Monday.

Democratic Senators previously pressed Pai in the spring to address comments from the President after Trump called The New York Times, CNN and NBC “fake news.”

At the time Pai also said he was committed to the first amendment but that he would not “wade into that kind of political debate.”