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FCC Chairman Ajit Pai Under Investigation by FCC’s Inspector General

New rules that benefit Sinclair Broadcasting put Pai under the microscope

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is under investigation by the FCC’s own inspector general.

Investigator general David L. Hunt is looking into whether Pai spearheaded a rules change last year in cahoots with Sinclair Broadcasting. The new rules allow media companies to increase the maximum amount of television stations they own. The investigation was opened late last year, according to The New York Times.

“For months I have been trying to get to the bottom of the allegations about Chairman Pai’s relationship with Sinclair Broadcasting,” Democratic Representative Frank Pallone told the Times. “I am grateful to the FCC’s inspector general that he has decided to take up this important investigation.”

Hunt was appointed investigator general in 2011 by Julius Genachowski, who was President Obama’s choice to lead the FCC. Hunt served as acting investigator general from 2009 until his official appointment. He first joined the FCC in 1996, during the Clinton Administration, as an attorney-advisor, and joined the inspector general’s office in 2006, under President George W. Bush.

The FCC pulled back on regulations against media consolidation in April. Weeks later, Sinclair announced a nearly $4 billion deal to acquire Tribune Media — an acquisition that wouldn’t have been possible a month earlier. Sinclair owns more TV stations than any other company in the United States.

A representative for the FCC did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.

“For many years, Chairman Pai has called on the FCC to update its media ownership regulations,” an FCC spokesman told The Times. “The chairman is sticking to his long-held views, and given the strong case for modernizing 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 proposal.”

The Trump-appointed chairman grabbed headlines around the same time the investigation opened for curtailing Obama-era regulation on net neutrality.

There’s no timeframe on when the investigation is expected to conclude.