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Trump challenges TV network licenses

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October 12, 2017

President Donald Trump has threatened to challenge the broadcast licences of NBC and other networks.

US President Donald Trump has threatened to challenge the broadcast licences of NBC and other networks in a series of tweets.

The tweets posted on Wednesday morning were apparently spurred by a report from NBC News that said Trump expressed a desire to increase the US nuclear arsenal by ten-fold.

"Fake [NBC News] made up a story that I wanted a 'tenfold' increase in our US nuclear arsenal. Pure fiction, made up to demean. NBC = CNN!" Trump tweeted. "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!"

NBC declined to comment.

Trump's threat to challenge the broadcast licences that NBC holds with the FCC for its owned-and-operated stations recalls President Richard Nixon's similar threats against the Washington Post's parent company at the height of the Watergate scandal in the 1970s.

However, Nixon's threats were made in private, not for public consumption on social media.

In reality, a challenge to NBC's broadcast licences would be a lengthy process involving petitions at the FCC. But Trump's statement predictably raised hackles in media circles as it raised the spectre of government censorship of a news organisation.

The National Association of Broadcasters was quick to issue a statement after Trump's tweet.

"The founders of our nation set as a cornerstone of our democracy the First Amendment, forever enshrining and protecting freedom of the press," NAB president Gordon Smith said.

"It is contrary to this fundamental right for any government official to threaten the revocation of an FCC licence simply because of a disagreement with the reporting of a journalist."

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