Trump threatens press freedom, FCC broadcast licenses

U.S. presidential strongman Donald Trump has issued a stark warning via Twitter to the American press. In an October 11 tweet, Trump wrote, “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!” It is not the first time Trump has threatened the First Amendment constitutional right of a free press. Trump has already threatened to use anti-trust laws to punish CNN for unfavorable coverage of him. Trump encouraged the Justice Department to block a merger between CNN’s parent company Time Warner and AT&T.

Trump’s threats against NBC News were triggered by the network’s report on Secretary of State Rex Tillerson calling Trump a moron and another report by the network that Trump was in favor of a ten-fold increase in America’s stockpile of nuclear weapons. A nuclear weapons increase would place the U.S. in violation of a number of international treaties that are legally and constitutionally binding on the president.

By threatening to use the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Justice Department to punish the press, Trump is clearly walking on impeachment grounds. During the Watergate scandal, Richard Nixon challenged the FCC broadcast licenses of two Florida television stations owned by The Washington Post.

Nixon had packed the FCC with his political cronies, including its chairman Dean Burch, a former Republican National Committee chairman. Nixon knew that the pro-Nixon commission could be a valuable weapon against the anti-Nixon Post and its publisher Katharine Graham.

Nixon was particularly angered over the Post’s Watergate investigations. Although Nixon was impeached by the House of Representatives and resigned before his Senate trial, Nixon’s threat manifested itself in a 1975 FCC ruling that generally banned corporate cross-ownership of newspaper, TV and radio stations in the same market. Rather than see the FCC pull the license of the Post-owned WTOP-TV in Washington, Graham traded it for WWJ-TV in Detroit. Ironically, Trump’s threat to pull NBC broadcast licenses threatens the Detroit station Graham swapped for WTOP. WDIV, formerly WWJ, is a current NBC affiliate. Nixon’s repeated use of government institutions to punish his enemies weighed heavily on the articles of impeachment ultimately approved by the House.

Trump is walking down the same path in his threats to use government institutions for retaliatory actions against the press.

Trump’s threat to revoke the license of NBC is absurd. The FCC issues broadcast licenses to stations, not networks. To punish NBC, Trump would have to seek the revocations of all the broadcast stations owned by NBC Universal’s parent company Comcast. By seeking cancellation of the broadcast licenses of NBC-owned and affiliated television and radio stations, Trump would attack news sources that even his most died-in-the-wool base would find abhorrent. Over a hundred NBC-owned and affiliated stations in all 50 states and three territories are threatened by Trump’s rhetoric.

While Trump’s base may agree with him on his opinion of national news networks, they tend to like and rely upon their local broadcasters. After all, NBC does not report on local high school and college sports or cover local weather or crime events. Local NBC stations do provide such coverage and sponsor local charity events. Local news, weather, sports, and business coverage would be the first casualty of an FCC license suspension. Stations threatened by Trump include those that provided important life safety information during hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, as well as the firestorms sweeping northern and southern California.

NBC owned stations include KNBC Los Angeles, KNSD San Diego, KNTV San Francisco-San Jose, WVIT Hartford-New Britain-New Haven, WRC Washington DC, WTVJ Miami-Fort Lauderdale, WMAQ Chicago, WBTS Boston, WNBC New York City, WCAU Philadelphia, WKAQ San Juan, and KXAS Dallas.

NBC Spanish language Telemundo-owned stations include KTAZ Phoenix, KHRR Tucson, KNSO Fresno, KVEA Corona-Los Angeles, KSTS San Joe-San Francisco, KDEN Denver, WSCV Miami, WSNS Chicago, WNEU Merrimack-Boston, KBLR Las Vegas, WNJU Linden-New York City, WWSI Atlantic City-Philadelphia, KXTX Dallas-Fort Worth, KTMD Houston, KTLM Rio Grande City, KVDA San Antonio, and KEJT Salt Lake City.

To silence other NBC stations, Trump would have to seek the license suspensions of the parent companies of NBC affiliates, many of which are deep in the heart of “red state” America. These include:

Nexstar Media Group’s KRBC Abilene-Sweetwater, Texas; KAMR Amarillo, Texas; KXAN Austin; KGET Bakersfield, California; WVLA Baton Rouge; WBGH Binghamton; KVEO Brownsville, Texas; WCDB Charleston, South Carolina; WBOY Clarksburg-Weston, West Virginia; WCMH Columbus, Ohio; WDTN Dayton; KTVE El Dorado, Arkansas-Monroe, Louisiana; KTSM El Paso-Las Cruces; WETM Elmira, New York; KSEE Fresno; KSNG Garden City, Kansas; WOOD Grand Rapids-Kalamazoo-Battle Creek; KSNC Great Bend, Kansas; KETK Jacksonville-Tyler-Longview, Texas; KSNF Joplin-Pittsburg; KARK Little Rock; KSNK McCook, Nebraska; WAVY Portsmouth-Norfolk-Newport News; KNWA Rogers-Fayetteville-Fort Smith, Arkansas; KSNL Salina, Kansas; KSAN San Angelo, Texas; WSAV Savannah; WWLP Springfield, Massachusetts; WFLA Tampa-St. Petersburg; WTWO Terre Haute, Indiana; KTAL Texarkana-Shreveport; KSNT Topeka; KSNW Wichita; KFDX Wichita Falls, Texas-Lawton, Oklahoma; WBRE Wilkes-Barre-Scranton.

Lockwood Broadcast Group’s KTEN Ada Oklahoma-Sherman, Texas.

Raycom Media’s WALB Albany, Georgia; KWAB Big Spring, Texas; WIS Columbia, South Carolina; WFIE Evansville, Indiana; KHBC Hilo; KHNL Honolulu; WAFF Huntsville-Decatur; KAIT Jonesboro, Arkansas; KPLC Lake Charles, Louisiana; WDAM Laurel-Hattiesburg, Mississippi; WAVE Louisville; KCBD Lubbock; WMC Memphis; WSFA Montgomery-Selma; WMBF Myrtle Beach-Florence; KWES Odessa-Midland, Texas; WWBT Richmond; and KOGG Wailuku, Hawaii.

Hubbard Broadcasting’s WNYT Albany-Schenectady-Troy, New York; KOB Albuquerque; KOBF Farmington, New Mexico; WHEC Rochester, New York; KOBR Roswell, New Mexico; and KOBG Silver City, New Mexico.

Gray Television’s KALB Alexandria, Louisiana; KTUU Anchorage; WAGT Augusta, Georgia; KFYR Bismarck; KCWY Casper-Riverton, Wyoming; KWQC Davenport, Iowa (Quad Cities); KQCD Dickinson, North Dakota; WRGX Dothan, Alabama; WEAU Eau Claire, Wisconsin; KTVF Fairbanks, Alaska; KVLY Fargo-Grand Forks; KKCO Grand Junction, Colorado; KSNB Hastings-Lincoln-Kearney, Nebraska; WSACHastings-Lincoln-Kearney, Nebraska; WSAC Huntington-Charleston, West Virginia; WLBT Jackson, Mississippi; KGNS Laredo, Texas; WMTV Madison, Wisconsin; KMOT Minot, North Dakota; KNOP North Platte, Nebraska; WOWT Omaha; WILX Onondaga-Jackson-Lansing; WJHG Panama City, Florida; WTAP Parkersburg-Marietta; KNEP Sidney-Scottsbluff, Nebraska; WNDU South Bend, Indiana; KYTV Springfield, Missouri; WITN Washington-Greenville-New Bern, North Carolina; KUMV Williston, North Dakota; and WECT Wilmington, North Carolina.

Tegna Media’s WXIA Atlanta; WLBX Bangor, Maine; KBMT Beaumont-Port Arthur; KTVB Boise; KAGS Bryan-College Station, Texas; WGRZ Buffalo; WCNC Charlotte; WKYC Cleveland; KUSA Denver; KNAZ Flagstaff, Arizona; WTLV Jacksonville, Florida; WBIR Knoxville; KPNX Mesa-Phoenix; KARE Minneapolis-St. Paul; WCSH Portland, Maine; KGW Portland, Oregon; KSDK St. Louis; KING Seattle-Tacoma; KCEN Temple-Waco-Killeen, Texas; and KTFT Twin Falls, Idaho.

Hearst Television’s WBAL Baltimore; WVTM Birmingham-Tuscaloosa-Anniston; WLWT Cincinnati; WESH Daytona Beach-Melbourne-Orlando; WYFF Greenville-Spartanburg-Asheville; WNNE Hartford, Vermont-Hanover, New Hampshire; WGAL Lancaster-Harrisburg-York-Lebanon; WDSU New Orleans; WPTZ Plattsburg-Burlington; KCRA Sacramento-Stockton-Modesto; KSBW Salinas-Monterey-Santa Cruz, California; and WXII Winston-Salem-Greensboro, North Carolina.

Tribune Broadcasting’s WHO Des Moines and KFOR Oklahoma City;

Bonneville International’s KSL Salt Lake City.

Graham Media Group’s WDIV Detroit; KPRC Houston; and WSLS Roanoke-Lynchburg.

Marquee Broadcasting’s WNKY Bowling Green, Kentucky.

Northwest Broadcasting’s WNBD Grenada-Greenville-Greenwood, Mississippi; and KPVI Pocatello-Idaho Falls.

Sagamore Hill Broadcasting’s WLTZ Columbus, Georgia; WNBJ Jackson, Tennessee; WRDE Rehoboth Beach-Dover-Salisbury; and WVNC Watertown, New York.

Block Communications’s WAND Decatur-Springfield-Champaign-Urbana and WLIO Lima, Ohio.

Bonten Media Group’s WCYB Bristol, Virginia (Tri Cities); KTVM Butte-Bozeman; KCFW Kalispell, Montana; and KECI Missoula, Montana.

Heartland Media’s KNVN Chico-Redding, California; WTVA Tupelo-Columbus, Mississippi; and WKTV Utica-Rome, New York.

Meredith’s WSMV Nashville.

News Press & Gazette Company’s KTVZ Bend, Oregon; KNPG St. Joseph, Missouri; and KYMA Yuma-El Centro.

Sinclair Broadcasting’s WTOM Cheboygan-Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan; KMCB Coos Bay, Oregon; KENV Elko, Nevada; KMTR, Eugene, Oregon; WNBW Gainesville; WJAC Johnstown-Altoona, Pennsylvania; KSNV Las Vegas; WLUC Marquette, Michigan; WPMI Mobile-Pensacola; WJAR Providence-New Bedford; KRNV Reno; KCTW Roseburg, Oregon; WEYI Saginaw-Flint-Bay City; WOAI San Antonio; WTOV Steubenville-Wheeling; WSTM Syracuse; WTWC Tallahassee; WNWO Toledo; and WPBN Traverse City-Cadillac, Michigan.

Cowles Company’s KULR Billings; KNDU Richland-Pasco-Kennewick, Washington; KHQ Spokane; and KNDO Yakima, Washington.

Pollack/Belz Broadcasting’s KIEM Eureka, California.

Southeastern Ohio Broadcasting’s WHIZ Zanesville.

Cordillera Communications’s KRIS Corpus Christi; KBGF Great Falls, Montana; KTVH Helena; WLEX Lexington, Kentucky; KOAA Pueblo-Colorado Springs; KSBY San Luis Obispo-Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, California; and KVOA Tucson.

Sarkes Tarzian’s WRCB Chattanooga.

Pacific Telestations’s KUAM Hagatna, Guam.

Quincy Media’s WVVA Bluefield-Beckley, West Virginia; KRII Chisholm, Minnesota; WPTA Fort Wayne; WEEK Peoria-Bloomington; WGEM Quincy-Hannibal; KTTC Rochester-Austin, Minnesota-Mason City, Iowa; WREX, Rockford, Illinois; KTIV Sioux City, Iowa; KBJR Duluth-Superior; and KWWL Waterloo-Cedar Rapids-Dubuque.

E. W. Scripps’s WGBA Green Bay; KSHB Kansas City; WTMJ Milwaukee; KJRH Tulsa; and WPTV West Palm Beach, Florida.

LKK Group’s WVGN Charlotte Amalie, U.S. Virgin Islands.

Morris Multimedia’s WXXV Biloxi-Gulfport and WMGT Macon.

Capitol Broadcasting’s WRAL Raleigh-Durham-Fayetteville.

Rockfleet Broadcasting’s WJFW Rhinelander-Wausau, Wisconsin.

Vindicator Printing’s WFMJ Youngstown, Ohio.

Cox Enterprises’s WPXI Pittsburgh.

Lilly Broadcasting’s WICU Erie, Pennsylvania.

Rapid Broadcasting’s KNBN Rapid City, South Dakota.

Waterman Broadcasting’s WVIR Charlotteville-Harrisonburg, Virginia; and WBBH Fort Myers-Naples.

University of Missouri’s KOMU Columbia-Jefferson City, Missouri.

Stephan Marks’s KXGN Glendive, Montana and KYUS Miles City, Montana.

Bayou City Broadcasting’s KLAF Lafayette, Louisiana.

Dispatch Broadcast Group’s WTHR Indianapolis.

Denali Media’s KATH Juneau and KSCT Sitka, Alaska.

California-Oregon Broadcasting’s KOTI Klamath Falls, Oregon and KOBI, Medford, Oregon.

Waypoint Media’s WPBI Lafayette, Indiana; and WGBC Meridian, Mississippi.

OTA Broadcasting’s KMIR Palm Springs, California.

Red River Broadcasting’s KDLV Mitchell, South Dakota and Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Paxton Media’s WPSD Paducah-Cape Girardeau-Harrisburg.

Saga Communications’s KMOL Victoria, Texas.

Additional NBC-owned and affiliated radio stations that carry NBC News broadcasts would also be suspended from operations if Trump were to succeed in having FCC licenses pulled. Such a widespread threat against the media was not even contemplated by Nixon and his worst henchmen.

Previously published in the Wayne Madsen Report.

Copyright © 2017 WayneMadenReport.com

Wayne Madsen is a Washington, DC-based investigative journalist and nationally-distributed columnist. He is the editor and publisher of the Wayne Madsen Report (subscription required).

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