Monday, October 16, 2017

FCC Boss Dead Silent As Trump Threatens NBC License -

Last week, President Trump threatened to pull Comcast NBC's broadcast license for writing news stories the President didn't like. After the initial threat -- which many noted highlights a profound Presidential misunderstanding about how broadcast licenses actually work -- Trump then doubled down, adding a few more threats against Comcast NBC, while also blasting the "disgusting" free press. The threats received broad, bipartisan condemnation from those fond of the First Amendment, including from former FCC boss Tom Wheeler and Conservative think tanks like the Free State Foundation.

And while Trump was broadly criticized from those across both sides of the aisle, notably silent was current FCC boss and Trump appointment Ajit Pai.

Pai's FCC bio insists the Chairman is an " outspoken defender of First Amendment freedoms," yet Pai has yet to publicly even comment on Trump's threats, or respond to multiple requests for comment from reporters. That's despite Pai having given a speech just last month (pdf) criticizing the FCC threatening the revokation of broadcast licenses.

"He is making himself complicit in the coercion that the president was engaging in when he was trying to send a message to broadcasters saying, 'We're watching, and we control your right to be alive,"' Wheeler said last week of Pai's silence.

"But where are the Republicans?" asked the FCC boss in a critical blog post. "Chairman Ajit Pai and Commissioner Brendan Carr were both appointed by Donald Trump, and Commissioner Mike O'Rielly is a former Republican congressional staffer who prides himself on strict adherence to the law. Normally, they will tweet at the drop of a hat. Have they lost their Twitter handles?"

More vocal was his fellow FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who said history "wouldn't be kind" toward Pai's lack of courage when it comes to defending the free press from his boss's Twitter tirades.

"History won't be kind to silence," Rosenworcel said last week "I think it's important for all the commissioners to make clear that they support the First Amendment, and that the agency will not revoke a broadcast license simply because the president is dissatisfied with the licensee's coverage."

Similarly silent has been Comcast itself, which has obviously benefitted from the Trump administration's frontal assault on consumer privacy protections and popular net neutrality rules -- both designed to protect consumers from a lack of competition in the broadband market.

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