FCC Chair Ajit Pai Says Agency Can’t Revoke Broadcast License Based On Content

REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

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Eric Lieberman Managing Editor
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Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai said Tuesday that the agency does not have the authority to revoke a broadcast station’s license based on content.

“I believe in the First Amendment. The FCC, under my leadership, will stand for the First Amendment,” said Pai, who was nominated to lead the agency by President Donald Trump, according to The Hill. “Under the law, the FCC does not have the authority, does not have the power to revoke license of a broadcast station based on content of a program.” He also reportedly urged that it’s “not within the FCC’s jurisdiction to handle fake news.”

An FCC spokeswoman confirmed to the The Daily Caller News Foundation that Pai’s comments were made Tuesday during an event at the Mercatus Center.

The clarification comes after Trump used Twitter to voice his displeasure over what he sees as NBC’s biased news coverage. Trump even appeared to make several public appeals for the FCC to possibly have its license revoked, even as Democratic FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel declared, that’s “not how it works.”

Trump was potentially trying to cite the news distortion rule, which is an informal policy that allows the FCC to rescind the license of an individual broadcaster if the commission deems that it is deliberately trying to mislead, misconstrue, slant or stage news.

The office of Mignon Clyburn, the other of the two Democratic commissioners, declined to officially comment when asked if NBC’s license could be repealed due to an apparent lack (at least originally) of news coverage surrounding sexual harassment allegations levied against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. A staff member did, however, point TheDCNF to an extensive list of FCC guidelines from 2008, highlighting the news distortion rule.

“The Commission generally will not intervene in such cases because it would be inconsistent with the First Amendment to replace the journalistic judgment of licensees with our own,” the 2008 guidelines read. “However, as public trustees, broadcast licensees may not intentionally distort the news: the FCC has stated that ‘rigging or slanting the news is a most heinous act against the public interest.'”

The rest of the FCC commissioners, including Pai and Rosenworcel, did not respond to TheDCNF’s inquiry.

Despite Trump’s ostensible attempt to make a case that the license of the national news organization for NBC should be revoked, the FCC would have to deal with each locally operated station on a case-by-case basis.

The president has recently endeavored to cite other FCC policies as well. He took to Twitter to say: “Late Night host are dealing with the Democrats for their very ‘unfunny’ & repetitive material, always anti-Trump! Should we get Equal Time?”(RELATED: Trump Erroneously Cites FCC Rule In Tweet About ‘Unfunny’ Late Night Comedy Hosts)

Since Trump capitalized “Equal Time,” he was likely trying to reference one of two official FCC rules. But those rules either don’t apply or aren’t currently in effect.

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