Ajit Pai's Sinclair Connections Now Under FCC Internal Investigation

Ajit Pai's Sinclair Connections Now Under FCC Internal Investigation

Ajit Pai's Sinclair Connections Now Under FCC Internal Investigation

U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone (D-New Jersey) has spearheaded efforts in Congress to call for this investigation.

On Thursday, Pallone cheered Hunt's move. 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 United States households.

Pallone said those rule changes - followed by the almost $4 billion deal - concerned him, which prompted his push for an investigation. The New York Times reported last August that Pai and his aides were in communication with Sinclair executives more than a few times, and Pai met with Sinclair's executive chairman just days before starting at the FCC. He thanked the FCC's inspector general for pursuing the investigation.

FCC spokespeople were not available to comment on the status of that investigation or what the threshold for investigating a complaint is, though the FCC web site outlines the factors the IG considers in agreeing to investigate.

The extent of the investigation is unclear, as is whatever could result.

The probe could also append information to debates against the Sinclair-Tribune deal.

It is something of a chicken and egg issue.

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Pai has defended the review of the Sinclair-Tribune merger in a letter to House Democrats last fall.

Pai's office declined to comment on the report, but the chairman has denied his deregulatory agenda was meant to benefit any one company.

"Any claim that Chairman Pai is modifying the rules now to benefit one particular company is completely baseless", Pai's office also said at the time. "The chairman is sticking to his long-held views, and given the strong case for modernising these rules, it's not surprising that those who disagree with him would prefer to do whatever they can to distract from the merits of his proposals".

A coalition of public-interest groups, including CREDO Action, Daily Kos, Demand Progress, Free Press and MPower Change, have collected more than 400,000 petitions calling on the FCC to block the merger and investigate Chairman Pai's conduct.

Consolidation on this scale is conceivable only following rule changes a year ago by Pai's FCC.

Advocacy group Free Press and other groups today called on Pai "to recuse himself from all decisions related to the Sinclair Broadcast Group's proposed takeover of Tribune Media". 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.

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