Dems Seek Hearing on Trump Media Attacks

House Democrats are looking to get the FCC commissioners to come to Capitol Hill and assure Congress the agency will not punish news outlets over their stories.

Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-N.J.) and Communications Subcommittee ranking member Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) called for the hearing in the wake of President Donald Trump's urging that news media licenses be challenged (only TV stations, rather than networks, have licenses the FCC can revoke).

Trump is particularly upset by an NBC News report that he had suggested a major ramp-up in the nuclear arsenal, a story he branded fake news and fiction, and that NBC said was based on three people in the room.

Related: Trump Suggests NBC 'License' Should Be Challenged

“Over the past few days the President has repeatedly attacked news outlets and their FCC licenses," Pallone and Doyle said in a joint statement. "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. Despite our calls, the chairman has refused to say if he agrees with the President. We therefore ask for a hearing as soon as possible with all five FCC Commissioners so that they can publicly and under oath commit that they will not threaten broadcasters or their licenses because of the content of their reporting. Every day that goes by without comment from the FCC chairman is a continued threat to the First Amendment.”

Related: Trump NBC Threat Draws Bipartisan Chorus of Boos

Pai has declined to comment on the series of tweets, but has told Congress he would do nothing to impinge on First Amendment freedoms, even if pressured to do so by the administration.

Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel has already tweeted that the President's calls for license challenges is not the way the system works.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.