At a telecommunications conference Tuesday in Washington, DC, Pai said, according to Politico, "I believe in the First Amendment", without mentioning Trump or NBC. "Under the law, the FCC does not have the authority, does not have the power to revoke license of a broadcast station based on content of a program".
The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Trump called the report "pure fiction."
Pai was asked Tuesday if the FCC has any role in determining what constitutes "fake news".
Pai's remarks come days after Trump suggested NBC should lose its license. Pai said "traditionally that has not been within the FCC jurisdiction". Trump even appeared to make several public appeals for the FCC to possibly have its license revoked, even as Democratic FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel declared, that's "not how it works".
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But Republican Commissioner Michael O'Rielly has now said that "politics" should not interfere with FCC decision-making and that the agency should remain independent. While the FCC could theoretically decide not to renew a particular station's license, it is extremely rare for the FCC to proactively revoke a license, much less on the grounds that its content is objectionable.
"On Twitter, for example, seemingly on a daily basis, people regularly demand that the FCC yank the licenses of MSNBC or Fox News or CNN or any other number of news outlets because they disagree with the opinions they may have seen on one of those cable news networks", Pai said. It regularly reviews the licenses, typically examining a station's commitment to programming and activities in the public interest.
In the early 1970s, then-President Richard Nixon and his top aides discussed using the FCC's license renewal process as a way of punishing The Washington Post for its coverage of the Watergate burglary that ultimately brought down his presidency. It issues licenses to owners of television stations, which must be periodically renewed.