FCC Refuses Senate Dems’ Push To Revoke Sinclair’s Broadcasting License

Eric Lieberman | Tech and Law Reporter

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) sent a letter Thursday declining Senate Democrats’ request for the government agency to revoke Sinclair Broadcasting Group’s operational license.

“Thank you for your letter requesting that the Commission investigate a broadcaster based on the content of its news coverage and promotion of that coverage,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai wrote in a letter obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation. The message is directly addressed to Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington, who spearheaded the effort.

“In light of my commitment to protecting the First Amendment and freedom of the press, I must respectfully decline,” Pai stated.

Joining Cantwell are: Sens. Tom Udall of New Mexico, Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey of Massachusetts, Patty Murray of Washington, Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Tina Smith of Minnesota, Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Cory Booker of New Jersey, and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin.

They collectively argue in the letter that “Sinclair has violated the public interest obligation inherent in holding broadcast licenses” because they have been “deliberately distorting news by staging, slanting, or falsifying information.”

Claiming they are “strong defenders of the First Amendment,” the Democratic coalition says they are “alarmed” by Sinclair’s conduct, citing a video widely circulated in recent weeks.

The mashup recording, which was published by Deadspin, shows TV anchors from news outlets across the country that are operated by Sinclair saying the same exact lines. The larger public’s concerns over false news — which are already at a fever pitch — further intensified after the video made its rounds since it seems to show all of the information providers speaking from identical scripts.

Sinclair has been showing the opposition video on its own stations, which includes a number to call the FCC so people can voice their opinion on the situation. But Sinclair adds a relatively lengthy disclaimer in the beginning and end of the sponsored-commercial — calling the group who purchased the ad “a group known for its liberal bias.”

That video evidently wasn’t enough proof for Pai, nor was the senators’ appeal.

“A free media is vital to our democracy. That is why during my time at the Commission I have consistently opposed any effort to infringe upon the freedom of the press and have to eliminate regulations that impede the gathering and dissemination of news,” Pai continued in his letter. “Most relevant here, I have repeatedly made clear that the FCC does not have the authority to revoke a license of a broadcast station based on the content of a particular newscast.”

Democratic Reps. Elijah Cummings of Maryland and Frank Pallone of New Jersey sent a request to the FCC inspector general earlier in the year, asking the oversight bureaucrat to see if Pai is inappropriately favoring Sinclair.

Pai’s office promptly responded to the accusations at the time.

“Given that the FCC under Chairman Pai’s leadership recently proposed a $13 million fine against Sinclair, the largest fine in history for a violation of the Commission’s sponsorship identification rules, the accusation that he has shown favoritism toward the company is absurd,” an FCC spokesman told TheDCNF. “Considering the strong case for modernizing these rules, it’s not surprising that those who disagree with him would prefer to do whatever they can to distract from the merits of the reforms that the FCC has adopted.”

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