FCC Chairman Ajit Pai today defended his decision to refer Sinclair Broadcast Group’s proposed $3.9 billion acquisition of Tribune Media to an administrative law judge for review.
Testifying at a House Oversight hearing, Pai was asked to respond to a tweet from President Trump in which the White House characterized the FCC’s decision as “sad and unfair” and “disgraceful.”
“I stand by our decision,” Pai told a U.S. House panel.
Trump lauded the combination, tweeting “This would have been a great and much needed Conservative voice for and of the People.”
Sinclair is the largest owner of local television stations across the United States, and its acquisition of Tribune would make it even larger. It has come under criticism for forcing its stations to run opinion segments supportive of the president and conservative causes.
Pai said his decision was made through an examination of the facts of the case, not based on ideology.
The FCC, as promised, released a hearing designation order asking an a judge to determine whether the Sinclair Broadcast Group “engaged in misrepresentation” in its pending $3.9 billion acquisition of Tribune Media.
Central to the review is how Sinclair presented its plans to divest stations in Chicago, Dallas and Houston in order gain regulatory approval. Those so-called “sidecar” deals could enable Sinclair to effectively continue operating the stations, Pai said, in violation of federal rules.