Finance

FCC Chair Investigated Over Rule Change That Helps Sinclair

FCC Chair Investigated Over Rule Change That Helps Sinclair

He said he was appreciative to the FCC's inspector general that he has thought of taking up this vital investigation.

Under the leadership of Ajit Pai, a Republican appointed to run the agency by President Trump, the FCC has repeatedly pushed for policy changes to make it easier for broadcasters to amass greater ownership of media properties.

The probe, which is expected to examine whether Pai and his aides improperly coordinated rule changes with Sinclair, could create problems for the pending approval of the $3.9 billion (roughly Rs. 24,900 crores) transaction. "The Chairman has repeatedly refused to answer these inquiries, raising questions about whether he is appropriately following Commission rules", they told Hunt in their November request for an investigation.

This story was updated at 10:56 p.m.

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

When the repeals were passed, Sinclair CEO Chris Ripley called Pai's easing of the regulations "groundbreaking". "The Chairman is sticking to his long-held views, and given the strong case for modernizing 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".

Among other decisions, Pai's FCC rolled back broadcast TV station ownership limits, which could help Sinclair complete its pending acquisition of Tribune Media Company.

The Sinclair merger has faced opposition from Democrats and even some conservative media outlets. Broadcasters are now capped at 39 percent.

An FCC spokesman refuted the claims, according to the report.

But Pai said the FCC review of Sinclair's purchase was by the book and there's nothing new about his push for deregulation since he has always been an advocate of loosening restrictions on media companies' ability to consolidate and buy up competitors.

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. There's no word on how long the investigation will take. The inspector general acts as a watchdog to various government agencies.


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