Pimping for profits after he is out of government
FCC boss Ajit Pai is rushing to approve Sinclair Broadcast Group’s $4 billion acquisition of Tribune before a court ruling can scuttle the deal. Pai is already facing a corruption probe by the nonpartisan FCC Inspector General amidst allegations he coordinated the elimination of decades-old media consolidation rules simply to help Sinclair. The rules, which have long had bipartisan support, are designed to protect smaller competitors and local news stations from being obliterated by media giants like Sinclair, whose news has been widely ridiculed as misleading on a good day.
Undaunted, Pai is rushing forward with several additional rule changes allowing the merger to proceed, with the hopes of beating a looming court challenge to the punch.
One of Pai’s moves included restoring an obscure loophole known as the UHF Discount. The rule was discarded a few years ago by the FCC for being largely useless. But Pai rushed to restore it because it lets Sinclair falsely claim that its overall post-merger reach is much smaller than it actually is, letting the company duck underneath limits on just how large one broadcaster can get.
A panel of appellate judges is currently considering a challenge to Pai’s decision to reinstate the obscure rule, but Pai is clearly trying to help Sinclair’s merger gain approval before the court ruling can come down. As such, he’s scheduled a a July 12 vote on further altering rules that cap broadcasters reach at 39 percent of the national audience. Sinclair, meanwhile is engaging in all manner of tricks to try and further reduce its perceived footprint, including proposing selling off some stations to companies still tied to Sinclair, often via notable sweetheart deals for some involved in the shell game.
In short, Pai continues to gut decades-old media consolidation rules specifically to aid Sinclair. While under investigation for…corruption allegations that he’s specifically trying to aid Sinclair.