No sooner had I upbraided media folks for overreacting to various presidential peccadillos regarding Puerto Rico, when Donald J. Trump, in his running media battle, crossed a line with this week’s most notorious tweet.
He first complained, perhaps correctly, that, “Fake @NBCNews made up a story that I wanted a ‘tenfold’ increase in our U.S. nuclear arsenal. Pure fiction, made up to demean.” But then the chief executive officer of the United States of America tweeted this: “With all of the Fake News coming out of NBC and the Networks, at what point is it appropriate to challenge their License?”
The answer to his question is: never.
The Federal Communications Commission licenses the network affiliates of ABC, NBC and CBS across the country — not the networks themselves — to broadcast their television signals using public airwaves. Still, through those affiliates a tyrannical FCC could no doubt damage the networks.
Government licensing of media outlets is anathema to the First Amendment. And the thought of the POTUS actively threatening the ability of NBC or other networks to report the news as they freely decide is . . . well, unthinkable.
I don’t buy the accusations that Trump is undermining freedom of the press by criticizing the press — even arguing by tweet, “The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @CNN, @NBCNews and many more) . . . is the enemy of the American People!” The president is as free to criticize the media as the media is free to criticize the president.
It might be his duty.
But considering the use of official government power to potentially “shut down NBC and other American networks,” as UK’s Independent reported, or just to temper their coverage?
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.