Trump continues fight with NBC News, threatens to revoke license

Donald Trump speaking
Any power over broadcast television would fall to the FCC, not President Trump. The FCC does not license national networks like NBC or CBS, but does grant individual licenses to TV stations. (C-SPAN)

President Donald Trump is continuing to escalate his war of words with NBC News, suggesting in a tweet Wednesday night that network news is “so partisan” and licenses should be “challenged and, if appropriate, revoked.”

The recent tweets from Trump expand on vague threats he made earlier this week regarding NBC News’ story about the administration’s ambitions to expand the U.S. nuclear weapon arsenal. He called the article “pure fiction” and said it was intended to “demean” while likening NBC News to CNN, another news network with which Trump has clashed.

He echoed those sentiments today in another early morning tweet.

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The question now becomes how capable the president is of acting on his threats to pull network television licenses.

According to the Hill, Trump said he had no plans to curtail what the press can print or say. But lawmakers like Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., have said that the threats could still skew reporting and writing.

Pallone, along with Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA) today called for a hearing with FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and the other FCC commissioners so that they can “publicly disavow President Donald Trump’s repeated threats to revoke NBC’s broadcaster license due to its reporting,”

“Over the past few days the President has repeatedly attacked news outlets and their FCC licenses. This threat alone may already be chilling free-speech across the country. That is why we and others have called on the FCC Chairman to immediately condemn this intimidation and promise to the American public that he will not follow through on the directions he has received from the President,” said the lawmakers, adding that Pai has still refused to say if he agrees with the President.

But any power over broadcast television would fall to the FCC, not the president. The FCC does not license national networks like NBC or CBS, but does grant individual licenses to TV stations. And the commission retains the right to investigate stations that it feels are introducing “hoaxes” or “news distortion” into broadcast journalism.

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel took to Twitter to address the President’s veiled threats to NBC’s and other networks’ licenses.

“Not how it works,” tweeted Rosenworcel, pointing toward a manual (PDF) outlining the FCC’s regulation of broadcasters. “Freedom of the press is a cornerstone of our democracy. Hope my @FCC colleagues can all be on the same page with respect to 1st Amendment.”

RELATED: White House could use AT&T-Time Warner deal as leverage against CNN, New York Times says

Trump’s repeated criticisms of the press have occurred throughout his presidency and have often focused on CNN, which he often refers to as “fake news.”

CNN, which is owned by parent company Time Warner, for a while appeared to be at the center of the regulatory review process for AT&T’s proposed $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner.

While the U.S. Justice Department’s review is said to be in the final stages and could wrap up this month, earlier reports suggested that the White House could withhold approval of the deal until action was taken against CNN, reportedly including ousting CNN head Jeff Zucker.

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