TRCO/SBGI: House, Senate Dems Press FCC Chair for More Information on Communications with Sinclair, Further Media Deregulation

Event Driven Takeaways

  • The chairman of the FCC and his staff are under additional scrutiny from Democratic and Independent lawmakers in both the House and Senate as they either drill down into the details of the FCC’s recent actions that allowed TRCO/SBGI to move forward, or are merely voicing their opposition. Lawmakers are seeking more details on Pai’s past and future actions on TRCO/SBGI directly and on media ownership regulations more broadly.
  • In a Sept. 29 letter, three Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee asked for a response by Oct. 12 from the FCC on whether it will pause its informal 180-day merger review shot clock. The pause could help outside parties seeking more time to weigh in on the deal gain more time, and would let agency staff take more time to review TRCO/SBGI’s responses to a Sept. 14 request for additional information.
  • House Democrats are pressuring Pai and his staff to turn over all correspondence with Sinclair and its representatives -including materials exempt from FOIA- since the Nov. 8, 2016 election. Some groups have claimed that Pai’s FCC is giving Sinclair preferential treatment through its regulations to help it acquire Tribune, though the FCC and Sinclair have denied that charge.
  • House Democrats remain concerned by the timing of the FCC’s action to reinstate the “UHF discount,” currently the subject of litigation, with the announcement of the TRCO/SBGI transaction, which relies on the discount to fall under national media ownership caps.

The politics and timing of TRCO/SBGI are under increasing scrutiny as Democrats in both the House and Senate either press the FCC for significantly more information on the agency’s actions on media ownership rules. In a Sept. 29 letter, all 13 Democrats on the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, which has jurisdiction over the FCC, 10 other democratic senators as well as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) excoriated FCC Chair