House Dems Seek More Sinclair Answers from Pai

House Energy & Commerce Committee Democrats want more from FCC Chairman Ajit Pai on the commission's review of the proposed Sinclair-Tribune merger.

Specifically they want any correspondence between Sinclair and Pai's office, info they said was not supplied pursuant to an earlier request for information on the deal vetting.

Signing on to the letter were E&C ranking member Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), Oversight Subcommittee ranking member Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) and Communications Subcommittee ranking member Mike Doyle (D-Pa.).

Related: Blumenthal Urges Pai to Deny Sinclair-Tribune Merger

Democrats have suggested Pai has worked to grease the skids on the $3.9 billion merger, including by restoring the UHF discount that makes it easier for Sinclair to heavy up. Pai has said the review has been by the book and favoring no one.

While Pai has already provided input on the FCC's treatment of the deal in a Sept. 8 response to the Democrats, they said in the follow-up letter Friday that Pai's response was wanting.

"Chairman Pai failed to provide the requested correspondence between his office and Sinclair representatives," they said. They also said they still have questions about the timing of the UHF discount's return and the "adequacy of the initial public comment periods for the proposed merger." Pai told them the comment period was in line with other mergers.

“We received your September 8, 2017 letter, and we appreciate the efforts of Commission staff to collect the information included in your response, but the narrative you provided failed to respond to several of our specific questions and raised additional questions,” they wrote. “Your failure to provide the requested correspondence between your office and Sinclair representatives is most troubling. We reiterate our request that you provide all correspondence between you and members of your office and representatives of Sinclair, including any lobbyists and lawyers representing Sinclair, since November 8, 2016, regardless of whether it is subject to a FOIA request.”

They also said that while the chairman explained in his letter that he was only providing the information that had been produced in response to FOIA requests, "the Freedom of Information Act is specific in its instructions that FOIA cannot be used to withhold information from Congress."

They want some new answers by Oct. 12. 

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.