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Ajit Pai under investigation by FCC watchdog for broadcasting rule change

The investigation surrounds a decision the FCC made in April.


Andrew Wyrich


Published Feb 15, 2018   Updated May 22, 2021, 12:48 am CDT

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai is reportedly being investigated by the FCC’s inspector general to see whether he pushed for rule changes to allow television broadcasters to increase the number of stations they own to benefit Sinclair Broadcasting, a group that has been criticized for having a right-wing agenda.

Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) told the New York Times that he has been “trying to get to the bottom” of Pai’s relationship with Sinclair.

“I am grateful to the FCC’s inspector general that he has decided to take up this important investigation,” he told the newspaper.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • The timing: Last April the FCC approved rule changes that allow large media conglomerates to own more stations than previously allowed. Shortly afterwards, Sinclair agreed to buy more than 40 local news stations from Tribune Media for $3.9 billion.
  • Now there’s a spotlight: The investigation by the FCC’s inspector general could magnify decisions Pai made and his relationship with the broadcasting company. As the Times points out, Pai may have to “answer questions that he has so far avoided answering in public.”
  • Sinclair’s conservative spin: Sinclair has been criticized for having a right-wing leaning agenda, including forcing news outlets to broadcast “must run” segments with a conservative slant. Earlier this month it was reported that the broadcasting company’s political action committee (PAC) sent out a letter to executives asking them to donate to it. In the letter, according to TV news trade outlet FTVLive, it praised Pai, saying he “appreciates the important role of local broadcasting enough to launch a number of politically unpopular deregulatory initiatives necessary to ensure the future of our industry.” With the FCC’s vote in April, it paved the way for Sinclair’s deal that would allow them to broadcast in 72 percent of American households.
  • Pai’s meetings with Sinclair: The Times published an investigation in August that found Pai had met with Sinclair executives in the past, including just days before he was appointed as FCC chairman by President Donald Trump.
  • More investigations: The FCC is also part of another investigation—this time regarding net neutrality. Last month the Government Accountability Office said it would investigate fake comments and stolen identities used to comment on several of the agencies proposals, including its repeal of net neutrality rules.

You can read all of the Times‘ report here.

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*First Published: Feb 15, 2018, 11:12 am CST