FCC's Pai: No Talks With White House About Broadcast License Challenges

FCC chair Ajit Pai said he has not talked to the White House about his response to the president's tweets about challenging broadcast licenses.

President Donald Trump, unhappy with an NBC News story he branded fake news, had tweeted that someone ought to challenge the company's licenses, which should be revoked "if necessary."

Pai was asked repeatedly about the issue during a press conference following the FCC's October monthly meeting Tuesday (Oct. 24).

Asked if the president or White House had reached out to him on the license challenge issue, Pai said no.

Asked why it took him so long to respond to the president's tweets, Pai said he responded the first time he was asked, when he reiterated that he supports the First Amendment, that the FCC is an independent agency, and that the FCC can't pull a license over the content of a newscast, no matter who asked it to do so.

Pai said his independence as a regulator was clear and suggested that the focus on his response was politically motivated.

"I understand that those who oppose my agenda would like me to be distracted by the controversy of the day," he said.

Pai would not say whether he thought the president's threats had had a chilling effect on the First Amendment, sticking with a regulator's answer that he would apply the facts and the law and make the appropriate decision.

The FCC can actually pull a license over content in specific circumstances, but those don't include what news stories are covered or how they are covered.

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.