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No, President Trump can’t order the FCC to shut news down

No, President Trump can’t order the FCC to shut news down

U.S. President Donald Trump was requested about his tweets threatening to revoke NBC’s broadcast licenses following a gathering in the Oval Office at the White House with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on October 11, 2017 in Washington, DC.

Pool / Getty Images

President Donald Trump‘s menace to pull NBC’s broadcaster’s licenses in response to a report he referred to as “fake news” has First Amendment hawks lining up. But might he actually do it?

Not with out numerous effort, say consultants.

“Anyone can file a challenge with the FCC to the renewal of a broadcast license,” stated Glen Robinson, a former FCC commissioner who teaches at the University of Virginia School of Law. “Trump is anyone. However, legally that’s all he can do since he doesn’t have any authority to direct or control the FCC’s actions.”

But despite the fact that it is doable, it is “wildly improbable” to go wherever based mostly on a declare of “fake news,” he added.

Trump lashed out at the network in a series of tweets Wednesday morning after NBC aired and revealed a report on-line stating he wished to enhance the US nuclear arsenal.

“Pure fiction, made up to demean,” Trump’s tweet learn.

Then got here the menace: “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!”

Later when requested by reporters in the White House’s Oval Office about the NBC story and his Twitter threats, he lashed out once more at the media however stopped wanting calling for limits on a free press.

“It’s frankly disgusting the way the press is able to write whatever they want to write,” Trump stated. “And people should look into it.”

By that night, he was again to tweeting and doubled down on his earlier menace.


This is simply the newest assault towards the media from Trump, who has commonly complained about news protection he believes is unfairly crucial by labeling the tales, news retailers and even reporters as “fake news.” But his newest remarks go additional by suggesting his administration would punish news organizations for publishing or airing tales he does not agree with.

While FCC Chairman Ajit Pai hasn’t answered requests for touch upon Trump’s remarks, the two Democratic commissioners at the company have voiced their concern that such an motion would violate the First Amendment, which protects free speech.


Indeed, the greatest factor standing in the means of Trump making good on this menace is the First Amendment.

“The First Amendment’s right of free speech protects NBC and anyone else who wants to speak in this country,” stated  Peter Tannenwald, a Washington, DC-based communications lawyer. “While intentional news distortion raises some public interest issues, disagreement with speech does not.”

The FCC receives complaints all the time from consumers accusing stations of airing inaccurate or one-sided news studies or feedback or protecting tales inadequately or overly dramatizing occasions they cowl.  But the company’s authority to reply to these complaints is slender because it has to watch out not to censor or infringe on the First Amendment rights of the press, Tannenwald defined.

The company can take a stand towards broadcasters that deliberately distort the news. But in order to examine and presumably take motion, it wants documented proof licensee or its administration engaged in the intentional falsification of the news. That’s a reasonably excessive bar. And absent any smoking gun, the fee is not possible to take motion.

“[FCC Chairman] Ajit Pai may owe his job to Trump, but unlike Trump, he’s not a moron,” Robinson stated. “He won’t sacrifice his career by trying to make a legal case out of Trump’s temper tantrum. ”

It’s not remarkable for a president to attempt to muzzle the press. Both John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson tried to discourage news organizations from reporting on what was actually occurring in Vietnam. And Richard Nixon, at the peak of the Watergate investigation, went as far as to secretly problem the renewal of broadcast licenses held by the Washington Post.

But Robinson doubts that Trump’s tweets are meant to scare executives at NBC or Comcast. They’re extra about attempting to persuade the public that these news businesses cannot be trusted.

“The real audience for Trump’s tweet is some set of the general public who might be persuaded to change their source of news,” Robinson stated. “It’s just another shot in his ongoing war against the mainstream media.”


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