Pallone & Doyle to FCC: Do Not Terminate Sinclair Review
Washington, D.C. – Energy and Commerce Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Communications and Technology Ranking Member Mike Doyle (D-PA) sent a letter to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai today urging the Commission to get to the bottom of allegations that Sinclair Broadcast Group lied to the FCC in the company’s failed attempt to acquire Tribune Media Company.
In the letter, the Democrats expressed their hope that the FCC’s Chief Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) would continue its ongoing review of the allegations against Sinclair. In the event the ALJ closes its review before resolving the allegations against Sinclair, the Democrats are urging Chairman Pai to direct the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau to review Sinclair’s conduct in the merger proceeding to determine whether Sinclair violated the law and FCC rules.
“If the ALJ terminates the hearing proceeding, we write to urge you to direct the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau to review Sinclair’s conduct in the merger proceeding to determine whether Sinclair violated the Communications Act and the Commission’s rules,” Pallone and Doyle to FCC Chairman Pai. “Such a review should specifically examine whether Sinclair violated the law prohibiting licensees from making false material statements or omissions to the FCC.”
According to the FCC’s hearing designation order, Sinclair may have been dishonest with the Commission regarding who was the real party in interest in several station divestures. Among other things, Sinclair appears to have attempted to hide from the Commission the existence of a $53 million debt guarantee Sinclair extended to a buyer of a station Sinclair was supposedly divesting. These, and other facts, lead the Commission to question whether Sinclair would ultimately remain in control of the stations it was divesting.
In addition, Tribune’s recently filed legal complaint against Sinclair asserts that Sinclair repeatedly and purposefully sought to mislead the federal government in an attempt to win approval of its previously pending merger. Tribune states that “Sinclair fought, threatened, insulted, and misled regulators in a misguided and ultimately unsuccessful attempt to retain control over stations that it was obligated to sell.”
The Democrats continued that if such allegations are accurate, “Such conduct may violate the Communications Act, and raises doubts as to whether Sinclair is sufficiently qualified to retain its FCC licenses. We understand that Sinclair wishes to withdraw its merger transaction from review and that the Enforcement Bureau does not oppose. Nevertheless, it is important for the integrity of the institution that an investigation into Sinclair’s alleged misrepresentations and lack of candor be conducted. It must be clear to Sinclair, and other licensees, that there are severe consequences for lying to the FCC. For those reasons, we request that you direct the Enforcement Bureau to investigate this matter, if the ALJ does not.”
Letter is available HERE.