Reps. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Elijah Cummings (D-MD) are calling for the investigation of FCC Chairman Pai over his favorable treatment of the Sinclair-Tribune merger, which is under review by the agency. The lawmakers sent a letter to the FCC’s Inspector General asking for “assistance in investigating whether Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai has taken actions to improperly benefit Sinclair Broadcast Group.”
“The Chairman has repeatedly refused to adequately respond to Congressional inquiries on this subject,” the letter reads. “His refusals – contrary to his stated commitment to be responsive to all Congressional members – only increases our concerns.”
The letter raises concerns about actions by Pai to loosen media ownership limits to the benefit of Sinclair. “All of these actions – when taken in context with reported meetings between the Trump Administration, Sinclair, and Chairman Pai’s office – have raised serious concerns about whether Chairman Pai’s actions comply with the FCC’s mandate to be independent,” the letter concludes.
The $3.9 billion deal between Sinclair and Tribune would result in significant media consolidation, creating a broadcasting behemoth, reducing viewpoint diversity, and killing jobs.
Opposition to the merger has been growing. Last week, the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians – Communications Workers of America (NABET-CWA) joined the Coalition to Save Local Media, a broad and politically diverse coalition committed to stopping the harmful merger. That coalition now includes 27 members from across the political spectrum. Lawmakers and an FCC commissioner spoke out against the deal. Attorneys general from Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island said in an FCC filing that the deal “fails to further the public interest by allowing for increased consolidation that will decrease consumer choices and voices in the marketplace.” The public record overwhelmingly opposes the merger.
The Commission’s Inspector General should answer the call from members of Congress to investigate Chairman Pai’s dealings with Sinclair. And the Commission should pause its review of the merger while the investigation takes place. Lawmakers and policymakers should both examine the wide opposition to the merger and realize the deal is not in the public interest.
House Dems want FCC chairman investigated over Sinclair-Tribune merger (The Hill, Nov. 13, 2017)
Reps. Cummings, Pallone letter calling for investigation into Pai regarding Sinclair-Tribune merger (US House of Representatives, Nov. 13, 2017)
NABET-CWA joins broad coalition to stop Sinclair-Tribune merger (Speed Matters, Nov. 9, 2017)