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.

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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.

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Sens. Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzCongress should lift the ban on medical cannabis access for military veterans Booker introduces bill banning facial recognition tech in public housing Senate Democrat: Colleague was working on fantasy football trade instead of listening to Schumer MORE (D-Hawaii), Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyHillicon Valley: Twitter shares more details on political ad rules | Supreme Court takes up Google-Oracle fight | Pentagon chief defends Microsoft cloud contract House, Senate announce agreement on anti-robocall bill Democratic senators introduce bill to block funding for border wall live stream 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.”