President Trump and his wife Melania at an NBC event in 2012. Photo: Evan Agostini / AP

President Trump asked Wednesday morning when it would be "appropriate to challenge [NBC's] License." But NBC's main network doesn't have a government license, and Trump doesn't have the power to directly take away the licenses that do exist — for the local stations that run its content.

Why it matters: Trump has regularly attacked the press, and his threat here is serious: to try and take a broadcast network off the air because he doesn't like its recent stories. It's a tactic that echoes Richard Nixon, who targeted licenses held by the Washington Post. But it's legally more complicated than the president's tweet makes it seem.

The facts:
  • NBC the network doesn't have a "license." Individual stations do. Some of those are owned directly by NBC's parent company, Comcast, but even if the FCC revoked those licenses it wouldn't stop the network from producing content.
  • "There's no way the FCC can say, 'Saturday Night Live needs to go off the air,'" said Harold Feld, senior vice president at advocacy group Public Knowledge.
  • The FCC is an independent agency. Its chairman, Ajit Pai, is designated by the president. But he's not beholden to the White House's demands like executive agencies.
  • The president does have the ability to pressure the FCC chair. Trump's comments Wednesday are an example. It's still highly unlikely that anything would happen to the licenses, Feld said. "Trump can't order the FCC to do it, the FCC wouldn't want to do it, and even if they did poke around they couldn't really do anything other than poke around and demand documents based on what the precedents are," he said.
  • The FCC does have leverage over NBC owner Comcast, Feld noted. But any move to pursue the company would be out of step with Pai's industry-friendly agenda thus far.

Go deeper

FDA approves Gilead's remdesivir as a coronavirus treatment

A production line of Remdesivir. Photo: Fadel Dawood/picture alliance via Getty Images

Gilead Sciences on Thursday received approval from the Food and Drug Administration for remdesivir, an antiviral treatment that has shown modest results against treating COVID-19.

Why it matters: It's the first and only fully FDA-approved drug in the U.S. for treating the coronavirus.

How the coronavirus pandemic could end

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

It's still the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, but history, biology and the knowledge gained from our first nine months with COVID-19 point to how the pandemic might end.

The big picture: Pandemics don't last forever. But when they end, it usually isn't because a virus disappears or is eliminated. Instead, they can settle into a population, becoming a constant background presence that occasionally flares up in local outbreaks.

Urban housing prices are on the rise

Data: ATTOM Data Solutions; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

Home prices are rising rapidly across the U.S., according to ATTOM Data Solutions.

Driving the news: ATTOM released its 3Q 2020 figures this week, concluding that 77% of metro areas posted "double-digit annual home price gains." Profit margins rose in 86% of the 103 metropolitan statistical areas studied.