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) SandersBoogeywomen — GOP vilifies big-name female Dems RealClearPolitics editor: Moderate Democrats are losing even when they win Sanders tests his brand in Florida 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 NelsonDem campaign chairman expresses confidence over path to Senate majority The Hill's Morning Report: Dems have a majority in the Senate (this week) Dems urge tech companies to remove 3D-gun blueprints MORE (Fla.), Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzGOP leader criticizes Republican senators for not showing up to work Senate takes shot at Trump, passes resolution affirming 'press is not the enemy of the people' Pentagon’s No. 2 official: Trump’s ‘Space Force’ could cost 'billions' MORE (Hawaii) and Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellSenators share their fascination with sharks at hearing Poll: Majority of Americans support Roe v. Wade The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by Better Medicare Alliance — Protests and anger: Washington in turmoil as elections near 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.