By year's-end, the Timeswrote, Pai and his aides were under investigation for promoting the relaxing of regulations that seemed timed to benefit Sinclair. He said he was appreciative to the FCC's inspector general that he has thought of taking up this vital investigation.
The FCC inspector general's office is investigating the appearance of quid pro quo behind agency rulings that have helped pave the way for Sinclair Broadcast Group's proposed takeover of Tribune Media.
Antitrust experts said this new investigation may complicate the reviews of the Sinclair-Tribune deal by the F.C.C. and the Justice Department.
But Pai said the FCC review of Sinclair's purchase was by the book and there's nothing new about his push for deregulation since he has always been an advocate of loosening restrictions on media companies' ability to consolidate and buy up competitors.
The FCC is due to decide on a $3.9bn merger between Sinclair and the smaller Tribune Media that would give the merged company an enormous media footprint across the United States, reaching 72 per cent of the population. Any claim that chairman Pai is modifying the rules now to benefit one particular company is completely baseless.
The extent of the investigation is not clear, nor is how long it will take. "The chairman is sticking to his long-held views, and given the strong case for modernising 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, which would not have been possible without the change, would push the total number of TV stations Sinclair owns to more than 200 nationwide. "For many years, Chairman Pai has called on the FCC to update its media ownership regulations-one of which dates back to 1975".
Last year, the FCC reinstated the UHF discount, a rule that allows broadcasters to count UHF signals at 50% toward the national audience reach cap.
The FCC and Sinclair didn't respond to USA TODAY requests for comment.
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