House Democratic leaders are urging somebody at the FCC, either Administrative Law Judge Richard Sippel or the FCC's Enforcement Bureau, to get to the bottom of the misrepresentation and lack of candor allegations leveled at the Sinclair-Tribune deal.
Reps. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) have sent a letter to FCC chair Ajit Pai saying they want the FCC to resolve those allegations one way or the other, and hoped Sippel would not take the Enforcement Bureau's recommendation and end the hearing, or if they did, that Pai should direct the Enforcement Bureau to investigate.
“It is important for the integrity of the institution that an investigation into Sinclair’s alleged misrepresentations and lack of candor be conducted,” they wrote.
An FCC spokesperson was checking on the status of that hearing at press time.
The FCC unanimously voted to designate the deal for hearing before the ALJ. Ajit Pai proposed referring the deal Sippel, citing allegations that Sinclair had been less than candid in its representations--Sinclair flatly denied any of it--and that some TV station spin-offs could still leave it in effective control of some of those stations--deal critics had said the spin-offs were shams. Sinclair said the relationships between it and any potential buyers had been fully disclosed.
But the deal fell apart after the hearing designation order and Sinclair withdrew the deal and asked that the ALJ hearing be terminated. The FCC's Enforcement Bureau said it had no problem with that, but only Sippel can pull the plug, which he had not at press time.
Arguably, and the Democrats argue it, issues of candor go to fitness for having an FCC license, and don't go away because the deal was scrapped.
Pallone has also asked FCC Inspector General David Hunt to investigate Pai's failure to disclose a conversation he had with White House General Counsel Don McGahn about the Sinclair-Tribune merger, suggesting it could have been a "coverup."