FCC chairman Ajit Pai told a House Communications Subcommittee panel that the White House has not contacted him about the proposed merger of Sinclair and Tribune or the FCC's decision to restore the UHF discount, which helped pave the way for that deal.
That came during questioning by parent House Energy & Commerce Committee ranking member Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) at an FCC reauthorization hearingTuesday.
Pallone cited numerous press accounts about how Pai's policies had helped Sinclair and suggestions the Trump administration had been in contact with him about the deal and the discount.
Pai said no one in the White House of the administration has made "any representations" about the proceeding on Sinclair or suggested any action or expressed views on the merits about the UHF discount.
Pallone then asked about the charge his policies were pro-Sinclair. He said they were not designed to benefit any company but instead were meant to take a view of the marketplace as it stands and the law. As for the UHF discount, he said it was clear that the discount could not be addressed separate from the issue of the related 39% national audience reach cap. One cannot be considered without the other.
Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.) said he also had questions about the Sinclair/Tribune deal and the "massive reach" it represented and the "must-run content they seem to be pushing on local media," but then said he would submit those as written questions and left those characterizations unaddressed.
Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA.), ranking member of the subcommittee, said he thought the fCC's reinstatement of the UHF discount, seemed only a way to enable the "unprecedented" merger that would give Sinclair an almost 80% reach (72%) to national TV households.