By Candace Clement, Free Press
The New York Times is reporting this morning that the FCC inspector general is actively investigating whether FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and his aides improperly pushed for rule changes that would clear the way for Sinclair’s purchase of Tribune Media.
That’s right: Pai is so sketchy that his own agency has launched an investigation against him.
The right-wing Sinclair, which wants to buy Tribune Media, already owns more local-TV stations than any other company. The broadcaster and the Trump team had a cozy relationship throughout the campaign — and Jared Kushner even claimed that the campaign struck a deal for more favorable coverage. And Pai met with Sinclair executives three days before Trump appointed him to chair the FCC.
Since his appointment as FCC chairman, Pai has worked overtime to clear the decks for Sinclair’s purchase of Tribune: He’s reduced the agency’s longstanding media-ownership limits and overturned rules that required broadcasters to maintain physical studios wherever they broadcast.
Conflict of interest, much?
Everything about the Sinclair-Tribune deal is offensive. Here we have a Trump appointee who’s dumping all consumer safeguards to enable Sinclair to reach more than 70 percent of the country with its racist views and Republican talking points.
And Sinclair isn’t an ordinary broadcast conglomerate. It overrides the objections of local journalists and forces its stations to run daily conservative commentaries and biased stories on the local news — including features from the “Terrorism Alert Desk,” which depicts all Muslims as terrorists.
If that weren’t enough, this deal is straight up against the law. It would violate a congressional mandate that says that one company can’t reach more than 39 percent of households nationwide.
With an active investigation of Pai underway, there’s no way he should be involved in reviewing this deal.