On Sunday, HBO‘s John Oliver zeroed in once again on an injustice perpetrated on the American people and took direct action—this time focusing his attention on robocalls and the Trump administration’s refusal to combat them.

Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight” production team set up an automated message that was programmed to dial the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) every 90 minutes.

The host aimed to drive home the point made by more than 200,000 Americans who called the agency to complain about to robocalls last year—that the calls “vary from the irritating to the outright illegal,” and that the FCC must act to stop companies from continuing their usage.

“FCC, we meet again, old friends. Except this time, I don’t actually need to ask hordes of real people to bombard you with messages—because with the miracle of robocalling, I can now do it all by myself.” —John OliverThe announcement of Oliver’s new effort came at the end of segment on the scourge of robocalls—defined as any call in which a machine dials a number or a person picks up their ringing phone only to hear a recording on the other end—and how the problem became so widespread in recent years, with Americans receiving constant calls from recordings warning of pending lawsuits and criminal charges or promising new credit card offers and lowered interest rates.

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“If you’ve been feeling like you’ve been getting more of them lately, you’re actually right,” the comedian and activist said. “Robocalls increased by 57 percent in 2018 to nearly 50 billion calls.”

“It should not be entirely up to us to deal with this bullshit,” Oliver added. “The FCC has the authority to police robocalls.”


Complaints about the calls are the number one grievance the FCC receives from consumers, making up 60 percent of the complaints it received last year. And, said Oliver, experts say by next year, half of all phone calls made in the U.S. will likely be from robocallers.

The FCC is “definitely aware of the problem,” Oliver said.

Yet, in keeping with his pattern of disregarding the public’s wishes while instituting policy, Chairman Ajit Pai has merely “urged” companies to combat robo-calling free call blocking or authentication services, instead of requiring them to do so.