Pai Under Fire

When a pair of Democratic legislators first accused Ajit Pai of championing certain rule changes to benefit his friends at Sinclair, we were skeptical. Chairman Pai is smart and ambitious, but I don’t believe he’s duplicitous.

As so many words and terms have been devalued through overuse and misuse, so it is with “witch hunt.” But that’s what this seems to be.

There is great value in having a strong “loyal opposition” in our political system—it may not be one of the checks-and-balances mechanisms envisioned by the founders of our republic, but it may be the only one we have left. And under those circumstances, it’s appropriate for said loyal opposition to look for malfeasance wherever it may lurk.

But here’s what’s wrong with this picture: the inquiry is ill-advised coming and going.

Considering that the rules changes don’t cause harm, but rather benefit myriad broadcasters, where is the case?

On the other side of the issue, the Commission—which did not get the budget it requested this coming fiscal year—is going to squander resources on an obligatory investigation that will lead nowhere.

(By the way, I’m no fan of Sinclair and think their acquisition of Tribune should be blocked because of their nefarious business practices—for which they were fined, but far too lightly—but that has nothing to do with the allegations against Mr. Pai.)

Ajit Pai may well be using his position as a springboard to bigger and better things, but during his time at the Commission he’s been a steadfast friend to radio—and has conducted himself with integrity, as far as I can tell.

But an investigation seems inevitable, and it will lead where it leads as it grinds to its inexorable conclusion. Surrounding the probe, to me, are a hope and a prayer:

The hope is that it doesn’t impede the radio-friendly path the Commission seems to be traveling.

The prayer is that we never have to hear, “Three years of Sinclair is enough.”