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FCC investigating Ajit Pai over relationship with Sinclair

17 February 2018, 12:07 | Lionel James

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

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

Analysis The chairman of America's broadband watchdog - the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) - is under investigation by the regulator's inspector general following a series of decisions that appear to favor one of the country's largest media owners.

Ajit Pai, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, is under investigation for ties to the Sinclair Broadcasting Company, Democratic lawmakers said Thursday.

Pallone's spokesman confirmed a report in the New York Times, which first reported the FCC inspector general's probe into Pai's actions on rules affecting the proposed deal in which Sinclair Broadcasting, the largest United States broadcast television group, is seeking to buy Tribune Media Co.

"For months I have been trying to get to the bottom of the allegations about Chairman Pai's relationship with Sinclair Broadcasting", Mr. Pallone, the top Democrat on the committee that oversees the FCC, told NYT.

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The FCC's inspector general is conducting an investigation into a series of FCC actions past year, and how they benefited Sinclair Broadcast Group in the midst of seeking regulatory approval for its acquisition of Tribune Media. Weeks after the rules were passed, Sinclair Broadcasting announced a $3.9 billion deal to buy Tribune Media. The office of the FCC's nonpartisan inspector general didn't comment on "the existence or the nonexistence of an investigation" to The New York Times.

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. "They have not been fueled by a desire to help any particular company", Pai wrote. The deal, if approved, would put Sinclair's programming in roughly 70 percent of American homes, mostly through local TV affiliates.

In the letter, the two representatives said the media ownership rule changes "have raised serious concerns about whether Chairman Pai's actions comply with the FCC's mandate to be independent". "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".

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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