FCC Chair Ajit Pai Reportedly Being Probed by Commission Inspector General


"For months I have been trying to get to the bottom of the allegations about Chairman Pai's relationship with Sinclair Broadcasting", Pallone later said in a tweet. "I am grateful to the FCC's Inspector General that he has chose to take up this important investigation".

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.

Democrats and public interest groups have questioned the timing of the rule changes, as well as Pai's meetings with representatives of the company.

"I think it's something that merits investigation", she told the House Energy and Commerce Committee during a hearing last October.

One month later Sinclair announced it would pay $3.9bn for rival Tribune Media and its 42 television stations dotted across the USA, adding to its 173 existing stations.

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

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Ajit Pai was opposed to JSA review restrictions when they were retained back in 2014, arguing with some conviction that they helped smaller television stations survive and fund additional content, as well as give minorities a greater opportunity to own television stations. Sinclair has modified the deal in light of the FCC's deregulatory moves and in an effort to retain more stations. Even with the relaxed media ownership rules, the combined Sinclair-Tribune will be forced to sell about 10 stations. Broadcasters are now capped at 39 percent.

The investigation is focused on Pai's push to change broadcast ownership rules, which have cleared the way for Sinclair Broadcast Group to acquire Tribune Media for $3.9 billion. But if Pai had coordinated with Sinclair, it could force him to publicly address the topic, which he hasn't done so far.

The Sinclair-Tribune merger is still under review by the FCC and the Department of Justice.

Pai's spokesperson said back in November of the request for an investigation: "Unfortunately, this request appears to be part of many Democrats' attempt to target one particular company because of its perceived political views, an effort that dates all the way back to 2004 when Ranking Member Pallone, Ranking Member Cummings, and other Democrats demanded that the FCC investigate Sinclair based exclusively on the content of a documentary they didn't like and that hadn't even aired". Both Sinclair and the FCC have declined to comment on the current investigation but called the original allegations "baseless".

The extent of the investigation is unclear, as is whatever could result.

The inspector general is a nonpartisan position.