Sen. Markey Wants Pai Pledge of No NBC License Action

In the wake of President Donald Trump's FCC license-related threat leveled at NBC in a tweet Wednesday (Oct. 11), Sen. Ed Markey has fired off a letter to FCC chair Ajit Pai to reject what he called Trump's efforts to infringe on the First Amendment or undermine the commission's independence.

Related: NAB's Smith Decries Government Threat Against NBC

After NBC News reported that the president wanted to boost the country's nuclear arsenal by up to tenfold, Trump equated NBC with his main nemesis, CNN, calling NBC "fake news" and the story itself pure fiction. He then  followed that up with: "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!” 

NBC, the broadcast network, is not licensed by the FCC, though it uses FCC-licensed spectrum for newsgathering, and its stations are licensed.

Pai has pledged to Congress that he would not act in a manner that stifles or penalizes free speech "even if requested by the administration, but Markey was looking for new assurances in the wake of the President's tweets.

Related: FCC's Pai: Free Speech Is Under Siege

Markey said it was "inappropriate for the president to propose challenging broadcasters' licenses because he disagrees with their coverage."

"Any insinuation that elected officials could use the levers of government to control or sensor the news media would represent a startling degradation of the freedom of the press," Markey wrote to Pai, according to a copy supplied to B&C.

Markey said he not only wanted the chairman's commitment to resist the president's request--which Pai's pledge to Congress appears to cover--but also wanted Pai to publicly and specifically "refuse to challenge the license of any broadcaster because the president dislikes its coverage."

Markey wanted a response by Nov. 1

An FCC spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.

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.