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FCC chairman Ajit Pai. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

FCC chairman Ajit Pai has enough votes to get an administrative law judge to consider his "serious concerns" about Sinclair Broadcast Group's purchase of Tribune Media stations.

Why it matters: This is now the second market-transforming media deal that has recently gone from a regulatory sure thing to a gamble. Like the Department of Justice's challenge of the AT&T-Time Warner merger, Pai's issues with the Sinclair deal run against the business- and merger-friendly posture most GOP administrations take.

What we're hearing: The document circulated to Pai's fellow commissioners highlighted concerns about several station sales Sinclair set up to get the deal approved, including stations in Chicago, Dallas and Houston, two FCC officials said. It also expressed concerns that Sinclair may not have been fully truthful with the agency. One official said that issue was specifically linked to the proposed station divestitures.

What we're reading: Conservative broadcaster Newsmax's petition to deny the deal lays out the opposition to the deal from Pai's side of the aisle and lines up with the chairman's concerns.

  • Newsmax's filing says that "while the balance of the proposed divestitures does not immediately indicate an attempt by Sinclair to circumvent the FCC’s rules, given Sinclair’s history of utilizing side car agreements to control and obtain revenue from stations and that the terms of these divestitures seem to be quite favorable to the purchasers, a hearing is necessary to examine these transactions."

Big picture: Sinclair can resist Pai's "concerns," but taking the case to a hearing will put the deal, and Sinclair's expansion plans, in significant peril.

Go deeper

The biggest headline from Biden's town hall

President Biden greets attendees during a commercial break in Baltimore last night. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

What matters from President Biden's town hall with CNN's Anderson Cooper at Baltimore Center Stage on Thursday, via Axios night owl Hans Nichols:

The biggest headline: Biden is jettisoning the corporate tax increases that White House officials have insisted, for the past 10 months, are wildly popular across the country. He admitted he doesn't have the votes.

Trump, your 2024 GOP nominee

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Former President Trump is telling most anyone who'll listen he will run again in 2024 — and poll after poll shows the vast majority of Republicans would gladly cheer him on and vote for him. 

Why it matters: Trump is the heart, soul and undisputed leader of the Republican Party and will easily win the nomination if he wants it, the polls make unmistakably clear.

Ina Fried, author of Login
1 hour ago - Technology
Column / Signal Boost

How smartphone cameras became the best cameras

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

For years, the smartphone has been the most convenient camera, and in recent years it has also become the easiest and most versatile camera. But this year's high-end smartphones have taken things to a new level — capturing images that would be either tough or impossible even with a high-end digital camera.

Between the lines: Traditional cameras have the advantage of bigger sensors and better lenses, but smartphone cameras are rivaling and even surpassing them by tapping computational power.