FCC IG Agreed to Investigate Pai Handling of Sinclair-Tribune

NATION-NOW     FCC Chair Ajit Pai investigated for Sinclair ties lawmakers say     
       FCC chair under investigation for ties to Sinclair

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai is under investigation by the agency's independent watchdog over decisions that benefit Sinclair Broadcasting.

Shortly after one rule change early in Pai's tenure, Sinclair Broadcast Group announced plans to acquire Tribune Media for $3.9 billion.

"For months I have been trying to get to the bottom of the allegations about Chairman Pai's relationship with Sinclair Broadcasting", New Jersey Democratic Representative Frank Pallone, the top Democrat on the FCC's oversight committee, told the Times.

"Given that the FCC under chairman Pai's leadership recently proposed a $13 million fine against Sinclair, the largest fine in history for a violation of the Commission's sponsorship identification rules, the accusation that he has shown favoritism toward the company is absurd", the spokesman said in the report. He said he was appreciative to the FCC's inspector general that he has thought of taking up this vital investigation. Specifically, the panel has removed impediments to the company's plans to purchase Tribune Media; an acquisition that would give the broadcaster access to roughly three-quarters of U.S. households.

The consumer group Free Press said that in light of the investigation, Pai should recuse himself from all decisions related to the Sinclair-Tribune deal.

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Pai's office declined to comment on the report, but the chairman has denied his deregulatory agenda was meant to benefit any one company. If the deal went through, this would make Sinclair the largest television broadcaster in the country with an audience of almost 70 percent of American households.

"For many years, Chairman Pai has called on the F.C.C.to update its media ownership regulations", the FCC spokesman said.

Most believe the industry regulations were repealed largely to help the Sinclair-Tribune deal go through since they do not serve to benefit the public at all. Pai called on the other four FCC commissioners to join him in supporting the plan.

Killing net neutrality may have been an unpopular move, and sure, the commenting period leading up to the FCC's vote was a farce, but the process that was spearheaded by FCC chairman Ajit Pai was entirely legal.

Back in November, joined by Overnight and Government Reform Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) asked FCC inspector general David Hunt to investigate whether Pai has "taken improper actions to benefit Sinclair Broadcast Group".


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