Trump questions NBC licence over 'fake news'

President Trump has re-ignited his ongoing feud with US TV news channel NBC by publicly questioning whether the broadcaster’s licence should be challenged.

In a tweet Mr Trump said: “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!”

The President’s outburst follows last week’s NBC report that Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, had called Mr Trump a “moron” after the pair discussed the US nuclear arsenal in July.

The report clearly still rankles with Mr Trump, as he also tweeted: “Fake @NBCNews made up a story that I wanted a “tenfold” increase in our U.S. nuclear arsenal. Pure fiction, made up to demean. NBC = CNN!”

The report stated that Vice President Mike Pence had to talk Mr Tillerson out of resigning from his post because of his issues with the Commander-in-Chief.

Mr Tillerson later denied having wanting to quit, but pointedly refused to deny making the insult, saying he would not dignify “petty nonsense”.

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His spokesperson, however, said the former oil executive would not use such language.

On Tuesday, Mr Trump tweeted that if reports of the insult were true, then he and Mr Tillerson should compare IQs, however on Wednesday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said he was “joking”.

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The President and his supporters have long characterised their critics as being purveyors of “fake news,” often without any evidence to support the assertion.

Whether or not Mr Trump is also joking about NBC’s licence, he is unlikely to get his way, since licences are awarded to individual broadcast stations, rather than to the networks which own them.

image of Trump Administration with Tillerson calling rumours of resignation 'nonsense'.
Image:
Mr Tillerson did not deny calling Mr Trump a ‘moron’

Comcast Corp, which owns NBC Universal, also owns 11 TV stations across the country.

Licences are renewed by the Federal Communications Commission on a staggered basis for eight-year periods.

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The FCC has said the First Amendment “expressly prohibits the commission from censoring broadcast matter” and that its role “in overseeing program content is very limited”.

Neither the FCC nor NBC have responded to the tweets, but Democratic Senator Ed Markey urged FCC chairman Ajit Pai to “withstand any urges from President Trump to harm the news media and infringe upon the First Amendment”.

He was referring to the First Amendment of the US constitution, which guarantees free speech and press freedom.

Senator Markey said: “It is inappropriate for the President to propose challenging broadcasters licenses because he disagrees with their coverage”.

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