House Democrats are demanding that the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission respond to accusations that he is providing favorable treatment to conservative-leaning Sinclair Broadcast Group, which has aired more positive coverage of President Trump on its many television stations and is seeking to acquire Tribune Media.
"We write to express our concern regarding reports that suggest favorable treatment of Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc., since you became Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission," they wrote in their Aug. 14 letter to Chairman Ajit Pai.
"The FCC is an independent agency and we are sending this letter amid recent criticism of your commitment to independence as chairman of the FCC," they said, adding that they wanted Pai to address these criticisms.
Democrats cited various media reports suggesting that Pai, appointed FCC chairman by Trump, is removing obstacles to the deal by lifting ownership caps, for example, that typically prevent one company from having too much influence on the media market.
Sinclair now owns more than 170 television stations and Tribune owns more than 40 stations, including stations in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago.
Sinclair's $3.9 billion deal to acquire Tribune was announced in May. Sinclair had already come under criticism by mainstream media outlets for its positive coverage of the Trump administration.
Democrats cited media reports that said Pai met with Trump shortly after the election, and met with Sinclair executives to discuss the FCC's media acquisition rules.
"Taken together, the volume of these interactions raise questions about the objectivity of recent FCC actions benefiting Sinclair," Democrats wrote.
The letter asked Pai respond to 17 questions about meetings with Sinclair and the Trump administration as well as well as about the proposed Sinclair-Tribune merger and the FCC's plans to review or overhaul media ownership rules.