On Thursday the New York Times published a report over how the inspector general wants to know whether Ajit Pai improperly pushed through rules in an effort to benefit the Sinclair Broadcast Group.
One of Pai’s biggest critics, Frank Pallone who is the top Democrat on the House Commerce Committee, confirmed the investigation in a statement:
“For months I have been trying to get to the bottom of the allegations about Chairman Pai’s relationship with Sinclair Broadcasting, I am particularly concerned about reports that Chairman Pai may have coordinated with Sinclair to time a series of commission actions to benefit the company. I am grateful to the FCC’s Inspector General that he has decided to take up this important investigation.”
The Republican FCC chairman, Ajit Pai, has pushed through multiple deregulatory proposals that would help clear the way for the Sinclair-Tribune merger.
Sinclair, which is a conservative leaning outlet, has proposed a takeover of Tribune Media. The combined local television stations would be able to reach more than two-thirds of the country’s television audience. Broadcasters are currently capped at 39%.
In April of 2017, the FCC voted to reinstate a rule which was recently repealed that would give broadcast owners a discount to help them stay under the set 39% ownership limit. The last November, the Republican lead FCC rolled back more ownership restrictions, including one limiting the number of stations a single company can own certain markets.
This is is hopefully just the beginning for Mr. Pai, as there is also suspicion in his push to roll back Obama-Era Net Neutrality rules which made internet be treated as a utility and blocked throttling.