Chairman Pai proposed altering the national TV station ownership limit, continuing his and Republican Commissioners’ preferential treatment of their corporate darling, Sinclair Broadcast Group. The chairman hopes to change the current broadcast ownership cap, which currently prevents any one broadcasting company from reaching more than 39 percent of TV households across the country. One problem: the cap is not the FCC’s to change. It was set by Congress, and only Congress can change it.
FCC Chairman Pai’s treatment of the Sinclair-Tribune merger, a $3.9 billion deal that would result in broadcasting behemoth and that is under review at the agency, has already raised questions. Reps. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Elijah Cummings (D-MD) called for an investigation of FCC Chairman Pai over his favorable treatment of the merger. 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.”
Pai’s attempt to change the ownership limit to further benefit Sinclair is sure to raise more suspicion.
“We write to remind the Commission that it is prohibited from allowing any single company to own broadcast stations that break the national ownership cap,” Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Reps. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Mike Doyle (D-PA) wrote in a letter to the FCC commissioners. “To comply with the law, the Commission is required to order divestitures in any transaction in which a company—including Sinclair Broadcast Group (Sinclair)—attempts to acquire stations that reach more than 39% of the national broadcast audience.”
“This is not a judgment call,” the lawmakers wrote. No Commissioner has the authority to ignore the law.”
FCC to Review TV Station Ownership Cap (Bloomberg, Nov. 21, 2017)
Lawmakers call for investigation into Pai’s treatment of Sinclair-Tribune merger (Speed Matters, Nov. 14, 2017)
Congressional Leaders Warn FCC Against Ignoring Law on TV Station Ownership (US House, Nov. 20, 2017)