Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai on Thursday rejected a request from a dozen senators to investigate Sinclair Broadcast Group for “distorting news” coverage.
The senators — 11 Democrats and Independent Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersOvernight On The Money — Senate Democrats lay out their tax plans Overnight Health Care — Presented by Altria — FDA advisers endorse Pfizer vaccine for kids Manchin: 'I think we'll get a framework' deal MORE (Vt.) — asked the FCC to review Sinclair’s broadcast license and pause its proposed merger after the company had anchors across the country read scripted promos warning of “fake news” and media bias.
However, Pai turned down their request, saying an investigation would conflict with his commitment to the First Amendment and freedom of the press, according to a letter obtained by The Hill.
“I understand that you disliked or disagreed with the content of particular broadcasts, but I can hardly think of an action more chilling of free speech than the federal government investigating a broadcast station because of disagreement with its news coverage,” Pai wrote.
He added that the FCC “does not have the authority to revoke a license of a broadcast station based on the content of a particular newscast.”
The letter was first obtained by Breitbart.
Pai's response comes as the FCC is reviewing a proposed merger between Sinclair and Tribune Media. If approved, Sinclair would own local news stations that reach nearly three-quarters of American households.
It was reported in February that the FCC inspector general was looking into whether Pai improperly pushed through rules in an effort to benefit Sinclair. Pai has denied wrongdoing.
Democratic lawmakers and former employees have been critical of Sinclair in recent weeks after a clip went viral of dozens of Sinclair anchors across the country simultaneously reading a scripted segment warning viewers of “fake news” and media bias that poses an "extremely dangerous" threat to democracy.
Sinclair executives have defended the promo, saying it shows no bias and was part of a well-researched journalistic initiative.