A group of 21 free speech activists, including three former FCC commissioners, called on the FCC chairman to publicly repudiate President’s Trump tweeted suggestion that the FCC revoke broadcast licences for airing “fake news” about him. “Such threats are what you would expect to hear in a dictatorship, not a democracy, and they must be condemned in the strongest possible terms,” they say in an open letter.
In an open letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, 21 free speech advocates today called on Pai to “publicly refuse” to consider any challenges of TV stations licenses based on President Trump’s disapproval of his network news coverage.
The letter was prompted by two tweets from the president on Wednesday that threatened broadcast licenses following reports on NBC News that he had called for a 10-fold expansion of the U.S. nuclear arsenal last summer.
“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!” he said in an early morning tweet shortly after the story was posted and broadcast.
He followed that up that evening will a broader attack. “Network news has become so partisan, distorted and fake that licenses must be challenged and, if appropriate, revoked. Not fair to public!”
“Coming from a president who has repeatedly referred to the news media as the “enemy of the American people,” these tweets continue a disturbing pattern in this administration to undercut vital press freedoms,” say the First Amendment advocates who include former FCC Commissioners Tom Wheeler, Michael Copps and Gloria Tristani.
“As an independent agency charged with protecting the public interest and overseeing the public airwaves, the FCC must resist any attempts to co-opt the broadcast-licensing process to suit the president’s whims.
“Such threats are what you would expect to hear in a dictatorship, not a democracy, and they must be condemned in the strongest possible terms.
Above all, the First Amendment declares that the government shall not censor news because it’s critical of the government. We strongly urge you to publicly stand against this administration’s latest assault on press freedom.”
Also signing on to the letter: CraigÃ¢â‚¬â€¹ Ã¢â‚¬â€¹Aaron, Free Press; JeffÃ¢â‚¬â€¹ Ã¢â‚¬â€¹Ballou, National Press Club; CharlieÃ¢â‚¬â€¹ Ã¢â‚¬â€¹Braico, National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians-CWA; BruceÃ¢â‚¬â€¹ Ã¢â‚¬â€¹D.Ã¢â‚¬â€¹ Ã¢â‚¬â€¹Brown, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press; BarbaraÃ¢â‚¬â€¹ Ã¢â‚¬â€¹Cochran, National Press Club Journalism Institute; BrandiÃ¢â‚¬â€¹ Ã¢â‚¬â€¹Collins, Color Of Change; GeorgeÃ¢â‚¬â€¹ Ã¢â‚¬â€¹Freeman, Media Law Resource Center; DelphineÃ¢â‚¬â€¹ Ã¢â‚¬â€¹Halgand, Reporters Without Borders; BernieÃ¢â‚¬â€¹ Ã¢â‚¬â€¹Lunzer, The NewsGuild-CWA; BryanÃ¢â‚¬â€¹ Ã¢â‚¬â€¹Mercer, Media Mobilizing Project; AlexÃ¢â‚¬â€¹ Ã¢â‚¬â€¹Nogales, National Hispanic Media Coalition; SuzanneÃ¢â‚¬â€¹ Ã¢â‚¬â€¹Nossel, PEN America; CourtneyÃ¢â‚¬â€¹ Ã¢â‚¬â€¹Radsch, Committee to Protect Journalists; Akili-CasundriaÃ¢â‚¬â€¹ Ã¢â‚¬â€¹Ramsess, National Press Photographers Association; StevenÃ¢â‚¬â€¹ Ã¢â‚¬â€¹Renderos, Center for Media Justice; ChrisÃ¢â‚¬â€¹ Ã¢â‚¬â€¹Shelton Communications Workers of America; TrevorÃ¢â‚¬â€¹ Ã¢â‚¬â€¹Timm, Freedom of the Press Foundation; and BeauÃ¢â‚¬â€¹ Ã¢â‚¬â€¹Willimon, Writers Guild of America, East.