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Clyburn Slams Pai over Sinclair/Bonten Deal

While the Sinclair/Tribune deal has been drawing light and heat in Washington these days, FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn took aim at an already FCC-approved deal: Sinclair's purchase of Bonten's seven stations, which the FCC approved last month..

According to a copy of her testimony for the House Energy & Commerce Committee's Communications Subcommittee reauthorization hearing Tuesday, July 25, she plans to tell the Congress that she was kept in the dark about the bureau-level decision, which she suggested was hardly walking the walk of Chairman Ajit Pai's talk of transparency.

"I must highlight the troubling lack of transparency involving the recently approved Sinclair-Bonten Media deal," she says. "By not giving an advance heads-up before the Media Bureau’s approval or the courtesy of letting my office know the transaction was approved after the fact, Chairman Pai reneged on his commitment to be more transparent than previous Chairs."

Transparency is one of the FCC process reforms House E&C Republicans signaled was on the docket for discussion at the hearing, and Clyburn was clearly in the mood to discuss.

”While it is true that this transaction was unopposed," she conceded, "its relationship to a related merger pending before the Commission [Sinclair/Tribune] as well as the D.C. Circuit’s UHF discount case, meant that it rose to a level of public interest that warranted greater transparency. Simply put, I should not have to learn of the Commission’s approval of a noteworthy transaction through the news media and I hope that this does not become the norm."

The FCC restored the UHF discount, paving the way for Sinclair/Tribune, which would otherwise have greatly exceeded the 39% cap on national audience reach.