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 SandersBernie SandersTrump trade deal likely to sow division in Democratic presidential field Buttigieg says he doubts consulting work for insurer led to layoffs Trump supporters at Pa. rally 'upset' after Democrats introduce impeachment articles 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.

ADVERTISEMENT

Among those who signed the letter were Sens. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonLobbying world Bottom Line Bottom Line MORE (Fla.), Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzThere's a lot to like about the Senate privacy bill, if it's not watered down Advocates hopeful dueling privacy bills can bridge partisan divide Key Senate Democrats unveil sweeping online privacy bill MORE (Hawaii) and Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellLet's enact a privacy law that advances economic justice There's a lot to like about the Senate privacy bill, if it's not watered down Hillicon Valley: House passes anti-robocall bill | Senators inch forward on privacy legislation | Trump escalates fight over tech tax | Illinois families sue TikTok | Senators get classified briefing on ransomware 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.