Before the Net Neutrality repeal that made him a household name, Pai worked to increase caps on broadcast TV ownership mere weeks before the Sinclair Broadcast Group, owner of a vast amount of local TV stations across the country, announced a $3.9 billion dollar deal to acquire Tribune Media.
"For months I have been trying to get to the bottom of the allegations about Chairman Pai's relationship with Sinclair Broadcasting", Pallone later said in a tweet. "I am particularly concerned about reports that Chairman Pai may have coordinated with Sinclair to time a series of Commission actions to benefit the company". "The commission should take no action on this mega-merger until the conclusion of the inspector general's investigation". Specifically, the panel has removed impediments to the company's plans to purchase Tribune Media; an acquisition that would give the broadcaster access to roughly three-quarters of U.S. households.
The investigation concerns whether Pai improperly junked the rules to favor Sinclair, Rep.
Legislators first pushed for an investigation into this matter last November.
Pai's office declined to comment on the report, but the chairman has denied his deregulatory agenda was meant to benefit any one company.
The FCC IG declined to comment publicly on whether it is investigating, but Hunt informed Congressional aides that it is investigating during a meeting in December, the Times article said.
Critics of the deal have argued the FCC revised its rules - which prevented a single company from controlling too many broadcast stations and from controlling more than a single broadcaster in the same market - because of Sinclair's friendly treatment of President Donald Trump.
Most believe the industry regulations were repealed largely to help the Sinclair-Tribune deal go through since they do not serve to benefit the public at all.
"Chairman Pai has for many years called on the FCC to update its media ownership regulations to match the realities of the modern marketplace", the statement said. At the time there were only three FCC Commissioners and one, Mignon Clyburn, voted against the proposal.
The extent of the investigation is unclear, as is whatever could result.
Sinclair's merger is still awaiting approval from the Justice Department and the FCC.