Ajit Pai, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, is being investigated by the agency’s top watchdog after reports he improperly pushed for rule changes benefiting one of the nation’s largest media companies, according to a published report.
The investigation centers around the $3.9 billion acquisition of Tribune Media by Sinclair Broadcasting. The acquisition was announced just three weeks after the FCC, led by Pai, approved rules that would allow broadcasters to greatly increase the number of stations they own. The timing of the two moves was suspicious enough for the FCC’s inspector general to open an investigation into Pai’s involvement.
The report details interactions between Pai and his staff members with executives from Sinclair. As well, Sinclair’s top lobbyist is a former FCC official who reached out to his colleagues to push for relaxed ownership rules. Language used by the lobbyist “has tracked closely” to what Pai has said in his speeches where he talks about being in favor of such changes.
“For months I have been trying to get to the bottom of the allegations about Chairman Pai’s relationship with Sinclair Broadcasting,” said Rep. Frank Pallone [D-N.J.], the top Democrat on the committee that oversees the F.C.C., said in the statement to The New York Times. “I am grateful to the FCC’s inspector general that he has decided to take up this important investigation.”