Senate Dems call on FCC chair to hold off on media ownership efforts

Senate Dems call on FCC chair to hold off on media ownership efforts
© Greg Nash

A group of Senate Democrats is calling on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to hold off on any media ownership proceedings, including its review of Sinclair Broadcast Group’s proposed merger with Tribune Media, until it surveys the state of the broadcasting industry.

Twenty-one Democrats and Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersSenate passes 6B defense bill Manchin becomes final Democrat to back bill preventing separation of immigrant families Kasich: There’s a disease in American politics MORE (I-Vt.) signed a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai on Thursday expressing concern about his record of rolling back restrictions on media consolidation.

“When combined with the troubling trend by some broadcasters of using corporately-developed national news content as a substitute for local journalism, your recent actions risk making the ‘local’ in local broadcasting a thing of the past,” the senators wrote.

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Among those who signed the letter were Sens. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonHillicon Valley: Supreme Court takes up Apple case | Senate votes to block ZTE deal | Officials testify on Clinton probe report | Russia's threat to undersea cables | Trump tells Pentagon to create 'space force' | FCC begins T-Mobile, Sprint deal review Overnight Defense: Trump directs Pentagon to create 'Space Force' | Lawmakers say new branch needs their approval | Senate passes 6B defense policy bill | Pentagon suspends planning for 'war game' with South Korea Overnight Health Care — Presented by the Association of American Medical Colleges — Governors criticize Trump move on pre-existing conditions MORE (Fla.), Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzDem senator: 'Stop pretending' law banning separation of migrant families is hard to pass Hillicon Valley: Judge approves AT&T-Time Warner deal in blow to DOJ | Dems renew push to secure state voting systems | Seattle reverses course on tax after Amazon backlash | Trump, senators headed for cyber clash | More Tesla layoffs Dems question FCC's claim of cyberattack during net neutrality comment period MORE (Hawaii) and Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellEnergy commission sees no national security risk from coal plant closures OPEC and Russia may raise oil output under pressure from Trump Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers target Chinese tech giants | Dems move to save top cyber post | Trump gets a new CIA chief | Ryan delays election security briefing | Twitter CEO meets lawmakers MORE (Wash.).

The group argued that Pai’s efforts to dismantle regulations limiting the control of media conglomerates like Sinclair is threatening independent journalism and allowing such entities to amass too much influence.

“The FCC — under your leadership — has engaged in a systematic process of eliminating many of the individual rules designed to further this public interest obligation and keep broadcasters tied to their local community,” they wrote to Pai.

Democrats have called for Pai’s recusal from the Sinclair proceeding after it was revealed earlier this year that the FCC inspector general had opened an investigation into the propriety of his deregulation spree and whether it was designed to benefit Sinclair.

A spokeswoman for Pai declined to comment but the chairman has denied those accusations.