US FCC Faces Internal Probe Into Chairman Ajit Pai's Actions, Says Lawmaker

US FCC Faces Internal Probe Into Chairman Ajit Pai's Actions, Says Lawmaker

The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission is being probed by the agency's inspector general about whether he inappropriately favored a conservative-leaning broadcast company, according to a lawmaker.

And last April, two weeks before Sinclair announced their plans to purchase Tribune, the FCC tweaked the UHF discount, allowing one company to reach up to 78 percent of American homes, shattering previous ownership caps.

Mr. Pallone, the top Democrat on the committee that oversees the F.C.C., said that he has been trying for months to uncover the allegations about Chairman Pai's relationship with Sinclair Broadcasting.

Pallone and Rep. Elijah Cummings, a Democrat from Maryland, wrote to FCC inspector general David Hunt in November asking him to investigate whether there was "inappropriate coordination" between Pai's office and Sinclair. He said he was appreciative to the FCC's inspector general that he has thought of taking up this vital investigation.

The question for the Inspector General: Was Pai's push for the new rules improper and were they timed to benefit Sinclair.

"If the investigation finds that Pai or any other FCC staff did indeed let their own bias and favoritism shape decisions related to the deal, they must not be permitted to vote on this matter and they should be subject to other appropriate ethics-review processes", said Free Press deputy director and senior counsel Jessica J. Gonzalez.

"For many years, Chairman Pai has called on the FCC to update its media ownership regulations", the FCC spokesman said.

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

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

If the merger is approved, the conservative broadcaster would be able to air politically biased programming to more than 70 percent of the US population.

The FCC is due to decide on a $3.9bn merger between Sinclair and the smaller Tribune Media that would give the merged company an enormous media footprint across the United States, reaching 72 per cent of the population.

Likely if and when Justice signs off on that, or its modification of Sinclair's modification, it will need to be refiled with the FCC and put out for public comment.

Related Articles