Biden’s Nominee for the FCC Faces Real Trouble, and That Is Good News


Gigi Sohn is an already troubling figure, who’s shown in advance her inability to govern properly.

Try to imagine being on a job interview and telling your prospective employer that you will be unable to serve 20 percent of the job duties due to prior conflicts, but that you remain the best candidate for them to hire. In the business world, this would lead to a closure of the portfolio and a hand extended, as they thanked you for coming in, telling you the receptionist will validate your parking. But in politics, it is considered a resume enhancement.


Congress right now, like most other matters and legislation, is in a bit of stasis with a Joe Biden confirmation. Gigi Sohn is being positioned as the next person to fill a seat at the FCC, but although there was an ample list of items on her resume to show this was a problematic selection, the clearly activist administration continued to push her as a valid choice. Now, rather than going to a vote, a new development has cropped up that might require an all-new confirmation hearing for Sohn, an indication in itself that she is not fit for the office. But first, let’s look at her prior issues.

Sohn is a lawyer in practice and one who focuses on communications issues by trade. Her career is one immersed in academia, with chairs and faculty positions with a number of universities before segueing into political activism roles, for decades. She is, by all appearances, a typical D.C. creature. Over the years, she has made contacts throughout the communications industries, and has hosted parties gathering the power players from the pertinent agencies.

Sohn worked at the Media Access Project, a lobbying law firm in the capital, and was head of Public Knowledge, a communications group focused on internet control and intellectual property concerns. Through her varied contacts, Sohn was brought into the fold of the Obama administration. It was there that she promoted for the Fairness Doctrine to be installed and firmed up. She also was battling against the push for Net Neutrality; while seemingly a positive stance, Sohn’s issue at the time was that the proposal was not stronger.

AP/Reuters Feed Library
AP/Reuters Feed Library

In her confirmation process, a number of social media hits have raised red flags about Gigi’s ability to operate in an impartial fashion. Ted Cruz was one to alert the committee of previous tweets, when Sohn was rather intemperate towards Fox News. There was one ironic tweet, where the lobbyist, who has a desire to limit speech freedoms, implied it was Donald Trump who was a threat to the Constitution. And if you place someone in a position of power at the FCC, their targeting of a particular network has to be regarded as a real problem.

The encouraging sign, though, is that even, beyond these concerns, Gigi Sohn has now displayed a functional challenge to her appointment. As the hearing has now closed, one issue that has been raised very late is her direct involvement in a recently shuttered broadcast app called Locast. This was a television viewing app that provided local TV affiliates to those without cable and had no other means of getting their local channels.

Think of it as the same kind of service as a digital antenna, but for streaming purposes on your phone or computer. Locast was to operate as a non-profit, but when the broadcasters protested, they cited the service was interrupting broadcasts to petition for a $5 subscription, ostensibly to help defray costs.


At issue here is that when a judge ruled in favor of the broadcasters last fall, Locast was ordered to pay a $32 million fine. Sohn was part of the legal team for the now-shuttered streamer and had signed the penalty agreement. But then, after she received the nomination for the FCC post, a new deal had been brokered between the parties, and now Locast is looking at a far more lenient $700,000 penalty. By all appearances, this is seen as Sohn leveraging her potential influence, getting the broadcasters to agree to a lower sum for future leniency considerations, if she were to be installed. 

This has now loomed in her confirmation effort, and Congressman Roger Wicker, a ranking member of the Commerce Committee, has focused in on this apparent brokered deal. As a result, Gigi Sohn has come back to say that if she is on the FCC board, she would recuse herself from any future FCC considerations regarding rebroadcast issues and television broadcast copyright concerns. These are items of which the FCC is deeply involved as an agency.

AP/Reuters Feed Library

As a result of this 11th-hour announcement from Sohn, Sen. Wicker has called for a renewed confirmation to take place.

“Questions about Ms. Sohn’s potential conflicts of interest have been dismissed as without merit by the White House and Ms. Sohn’s friends in the telecommunications advocacy community. Now comes this unprecedented recusal,” Wicker said in a statement. “The FCC is too important to have a commissioner who cannot serve in a significant capacity.”


Sohn’s confirmation vote has been canceled for now, and on February 9, a second confirmation hearing regarding her appointment will take place.


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