Credo Action

Tell the FCC inspector general: Investigate FCC Chairman Pai's Sweetheart Deal for Trump TV

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The petition to the inspector general of the Federal Communications Commission reads:

"Investigate FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's actions to benefit the Sinclair Broadcast Group. Until the investigation is complete, direct staff to cease work on the merger and direct Chairman Pai to recuse himself until the investigation determines whether a permanent recusal is warranted."

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    Tell the FCC inspector general: Investigate FCC Chairman Pai's Sweetheart Deal for Trump TV

    It's no secret that Donald Trump hates the media, but he's not just complaining about it on Twitter. Just as Trump's Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai has been trying to kill net neutrality, Pai has also been quietly changing FCC policies to create a more pro-Trump media landscape.

    Almost from the day he took office, Pai has pushed through a series of radical rule changes to help out the Sinclair Broadcast Group, a network so cozy with Trump that it is sometimes called "Trump TV." Among other sweetheart deals, Pai is scrapping FCC rules on media ownership to allow Sinclair – already the biggest television operator in the country – to acquire another network and grow even bigger.

    If they succeed, Trump and Pai could permanently change the U.S. media landscape. But their actions appear to be so clearly designed to benefit one company – and Trump himself – that they could violate the FCC's own mission as an independent agency.

    Tell the FCC inspector general: Investigate FCC Chairman Pai's actions to benefit the Sinclair Broadcast Group.

    Last year, Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner announced that the Trump campaign made a deal with Sinclair to get favorable coverage for Trump on the far-right network.1 Paying back the favor, once Trump entered the White House, he met with Sinclair's CEO and talked about "potential FCC rule changes" to help the company.2

    But Pai's actions are just as disturbing. The FCC is supposed to be an independent agency that serves the public interest – not media companies and certainly not Donald Trump. Days after Trump won the election, then-FCC Commissioner Pai had an off-the-record meeting with SInclair's CEO. In the two-week period before Trump took office, Pai met with Sinclair two more times, once before meeting with Trump himself and once after.3 Then, two days after taking office, Trump nominated Pai as FCC chairman. Pai got to work right away on a series of policy changes that directly benefit Sinclair.

    Tell the FCC inspector general: Investigate FCC Chairman Pai's actions to benefit the Sinclair Broadcast Group.

    Pai's most radical step has been to eliminate rules that would prevent Sinclair from acquiring the Tribune Media Company. This is a mega-merger that would leave Sinclair with an incredible 223 stations covering 72 percent of U.S. households.4 With the FCC's longstanding media ownership rules out of the way, the commission will decide on the merger in the next few months.

    Now, however, 15 senators have called for the FCC inspector general to investigate Pai's actions, saying they “suggest a disturbing pattern of a three-way quid pro quo involving Sinclair, the Trump administration and Chairman Ajit Pai."5 The senators have asked the inspector general to tell Pai to recuse himself from all decisions related to Sinclair during the investigation, and they want FCC staff to stop work on the merger until the investigation is complete.

    If Pai is changing the media landscape to benefit Donald Trump, we need to know – and we need to stop him.

    Tell the FCC inspector general: Investigate FCC Chairman Pai's actions to benefit the Sinclair Broadcast Group.

    References:

    1. Josh Dawsey and Hadas Gold, "Kushner: We struck deal with Sinclair for straighter coverage," POLITICO, Dec. 16, 2016.
    2. Claire Atkinson and Josh Kosman, "Sinclair is close to buying all of Tribune’s TV stations," New York Post, March 14, 2017.
    3. Sen. Maria Cantwell et al., "Letter to FCC Inspector General David L. Hunt," Nov. 15, 2017.
    4. Ibid.
    5. Ibid.