WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Donald Trump on Wednesday took his biggest swing yet against the mainstream media by hinting he may strip certain networks of their broadcast licensing after reporting what the president said was a false story.
“Fake @NBCNews made up a story that I wanted a ‘tenfold’ increase in our U.S. nuclear arsenal. Pure fiction, made up to demean. NBC=CNN!” Trump tweeted (https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/918110279367643137?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw&ref_url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.foxnews.com%2Fpolitics%2F2017%2F10%2F11%2Ftrump-threatens-to-target-licenses-nbc-and-networks-after-nuclear-arsenal-report.html). “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!”
The president’s comments came in response to a report published by NBC, which said Mr. Trump had sought to increase America’s nuclear arsenal after being briefed on the reduction of such weaponry since the 1960s. The story cited three officials who claim to have heard the president make the comments during a gathering with national security leaders.
The war of words is just the latest battle between the president and many of the mainstream news networks, which he refers to as “fake news”.
Thus far, ABC has not issued statement over the the president’s remarks but Democrats were quick to jump on board the controversy.
“It is inappropriate for the President to propose challenging broadcasters’ licences because he disagrees with their coverage,” Democratic Senator Ed markey wrote in a letter to FCC chairman Ajit Pai on Wednesday. “The First Amendment is hte cornerstone of our democracy, and the news media plays an instrumental role in educating the American public and holding elected officials accountable. Any insinuation that elected officials could use the levers of government to control or sensor the news media would represent a startling degradation of the freedom of press.”
When reached directly for response, a representative for NBC declined to comment but MSNBC host Ali Velshi tweeted (https://twitter.com/AliVelshi/status/918114443300626434?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw&ref_url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.foxnews.com%2Fpolitics%2F2017%2F10%2F11%2Ftrump-threatens-to-target-licenses-nbc-and-networks-after-nuclear-arsenal-report.html) that the network “stands by our reporting.”
Television and radio stations require a license from the FCC in order to broadcast and are issued to individual stations and local affiliates, not to networks as a whole.
If the president chose to move foreward with his threat, say analysts, he would likely face a wealth of legal challenges.
A 2008 commission report (https://www.fcc.gov/sites/default/files/public-and-broadcasting.pdf) declares the First Amendment “protects broadcasts that criticize or ridicule established customs and institutions, including the government and its officials.”
It also states that the FCC “generally will not intervene” in “allegations that stations have aired inaccurate or one-sided news reports or comments.”