World

Trump threatens broadcaster's licence

US President claims network news has become partisan, 'distorted'

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump suggested challenging licences for the NBC and other broadcast news networks following reports by NBC News that his Secretary of State had called him a "moron" after a discussion of the US nuclear arsenal.

"With all of the Fake News coming out of NBC and the Networks, at what point is it appropriate to challenge their Licence? Bad for country!" Mr Trump tweeted on Wednesday.

Mr Trump and his supporters have repeatedly used the term "fake news" to cast doubt on media reports critical of his administration, often without providing any evidence to support their case that the reports were untrue.

Mr Trump kept up his criticism of the media in an appearance with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, saying: "It is frankly disgusting the press is able to write whatever it wants to write."

In a tweet late on Wednesday, he said: "Network news has become so partisan, distorted and fake that licences must be challenged and, if appropriate, revoked. Not fair to public!"

But any move to challenge media companies' licences, will likely face significant hurdles.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), an independent federal agency, does not license broadcast networks but issues them to individual broadcast stations that are renewed on a staggered basis for eight-year periods.

Comcast Corp, which owns NBC Universal, also owns 11 broadcast stations, including outlets in New York, Washington, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, Dallas and Chicago.

A Comcast spokesman referred questions to NBC, which did not immediately respond.

ABC, owned by Walt Disney, declined to comment.

It is frankly disgusting the press is able to write whatever it wants to write.
US President Donald Trump

Shares in media companies fell, potentially reflecting concerns that the war of words could worsen.

Comcast was down 0.8 per cent, while Disney shed 1.4 per cent. CBS Corp fell 1.2 per cent and Twenty-First Century Fox slid 2.8 per cent.

Recon Analytics analyst Roger Entner called the market response a "short-term irrational knee-jerk reaction" and said Mr Trump faced essentially insurmountable hurdles to getting licences pulled.

A spokesman for FCC Chairman Ajit Pai did not immediately comment.

Mr Gordon Smith, chief executive of the National Association of Broadcasters, defended the media's free speech rights.

"It is contrary to this fundamental right for any government official to threaten the revocation of an FCC licence simply because of a disagreement with the reporting of a journalist," Mr Smith said in a statement.

Numerous Democrats criticised Mr Trump and urged Mr Pai to denounce Mr Trump's comments.

Senator Ed Markey wrote to Mr Pai on Wednesday, asking him to "withstand any urges from President Trump to harm the news media and infringe upon the First Amendment", a reference to the US Constitution's free speech and press freedom guarantee.

Congressman Frank Pallone said Mr Trump "seemed to threaten broadcasters' licences only because he disagreed with their reporting. This threat alone could intimidate the press and lead to skewed and unfair reporting." - REUTERS

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