If Donald Trump really wants to shut down NBC News on broadcast TV, he’ll have to persuade more than 200 television stations — including KSL-Ch. 5.
That won’t happen, of course. And the president clearly does not understand how television works, despite his career as the host of cheesy reality shows.
We shouldn’t be surprised, given that he also doesn’t understand the Constitution.
Trump continues to declare genuine reporting is “fake news.” Any reporting that’s critical of him, his company, his campaign or his administration he labels “fake,” even though the vast majority of it is demonstrably true.
And this week he went on Twitter and threatened NBC’s broadcast license. Which, by the way, does not exist.
Even the far-from-liberal National Association of Broadcasters pushed back against that. NAB President and CEO Gordon Smith — a former two-term GOP senator from Oregon and a Brigham Young University alumnus — issued this statement: “It is contrary to this fundamental right for any government official to threaten the revocation of an FCC license simply because of a disagreement with the reporting of a journalist.”
But let’s leave aside the fact that Trump is attacking the free press, which the Constitution he swore to uphold guarantees. He can’t revoke a network’s broadcast license because networks don’t have broadcast licenses. Stations do.
NBC owns 11 stations in the continental United States (and one in Puerto Rico); it also has about 220 affiliates. So to silence the network, Trump would have to revoke more than 230 licenses.
KSL has clearly demonstated, time and again, that a local station isn’t a slave to its network. Channel 5 refused to air NBC shows like “Coupling,” “The New Normal,” “Playboy Club” and “Hannibal” — but always has aired NBC News.
The odds of Trump successfully challenging KSL’s license are, oh, about a zillion to one.
Unless a station owner is a murderer or a child molester, a license can only be revoked for airing content deemed to be obscene, indecent or profane. Or, in the case of one California station, a license was revoked because its owners had not broadcast anything in half a decade.
Bottom line: This is another empty threat from the president. He is clearly unaware that the FCC’s operating procedures specify that, “By operation of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and because the Communications Act expressly prohibits the Commission from censoring broadcast matter, our role in overseeing program content is very limited.”
All this is just about broadcast TV. The FCC doesn’t regulate cable television; cable television doesn’t have broadcast licenses to revoke. So Trump can’t do anything to shut down CNN, MSNBC or any other cable network.
So … this is more meaningless hot air from Trump.
Oh, and then there was this tweet:
That’s another road Trump doesn’t want to go down. Any real investigation into fake news would have to include Fox News … and the president wouldn’t like where that ends up.