FCC Chair Ajit Pai Reportedly Being Probed by Commission Inspector General

Inspector General Conducting Probe of Timing of FCC Actions and Sinclair Deal

The internal watchdog is reportedly looking into whether Pai and his closest aides inappropriately supported media ownership rule changes in order to benefit Sinclair Broadcasting, a conservative media conglomerate that was ready to, and ultimately purchased, Tribune Media for $3.9 billion.

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. The New York Times reported last August that Pai and his aides were in communication with Sinclair executives more than a few times, and Pai met with Sinclair's executive chairman just days before starting at the FCC. On Thursday this week, Pallone appeared to confirm the story in two tweets in which he said: "I am grateful to the FCC's inspector general that he has made a decision to take up this important investigation". Specifically, the panel has removed impediments to the company's plans to purchase Tribune Media; an acquisition that would give the broadcaster access to roughly three-quarters of United States households.

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

Legislators first pushed for an investigation into this matter last November. Both Sinclair and the FCC have declined to comment on the current investigation but called the original allegations "baseless".

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.

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When the repeals were passed, Sinclair CEO Chris Ripley called Pai's easing of the regulations "groundbreaking".

Shortly after the FCC voted to revise its rules, Reps.

"Everything about the Sinclair-Tribune deal is offensive", Free Press stated Thursday.

Sinclair's merger is still awaiting approval from the Justice Department and the FCC. "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". The deal, if approved, would put Sinclair's programming in roughly 70 percent of American homes, mostly through local TV affiliates.

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