Ajit Pai faces investigation into moves that benefit Sinclair Broadcasting

Rep. Frank Pallone

Rep. Frank Pallone

By the end of 2017, the top internal watchdog for the FCC opened an investigation into whether Pai and his aides had improperly pushed for the rule changes and whether they had timed them to benefit Sinclair, the Times said, citing Rep.

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

"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 agency representative told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

By bureaucratic practice, the FCC Inspector General does not confirm or deny potential or ongoing investigations.

"We have strong concerns that the FCC's ongoing review of the proposed merger of Sinclair Broadcasting and Tribune Media may be tainted by a series of actions and events that raise questions about the independence and impartiality of the FCC", wrote the senators to FCC Inspector General David Hunt. 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.

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Antitrust experts said this new investigation may complicate the reviews of the Sinclair-Tribune deal by the F.C.C. and the Justice Department.

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.

The probe could also append information to debates against the Sinclair-Tribune deal. At the time, a spokesman for the FCC representing Pai called the allegations "baseless" and alluded to it being a partisan play by those who oppose the chairman. At the time there were only three FCC Commissioners and one, Mignon Clyburn, voted against the proposal.

The extent of the investigation is unclear, nor is how long it will take.

Critics of the deal have argued the FCC revised its rules - which prevented a single company from controlling too many broadcast stations and from controlling more than a single broadcaster in the same market - because of Sinclair's friendly treatment of President Donald Trump.

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