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NAB Has ''Serious Concerns'' About Sohn's FCC Nomination


Gigi Sohn
Gigi Sohn

Following the nomination of Gigi Sohn as an FCC commissioner last month by President Biden, the NAB is expressing serious concerns about her involvement as one of three directors of the illegal streaming service Locast. Sohn, a Net Neutrality advocate who co-founded the non-profit advocacy group Public Knowledge, is not currently opposed by the trade group and NAB is confident that these concerns can be resolved.

In a statement, NAB President and CEO Gordon Smith said, "NAB strongly supports Congress's desire to have a fully seated Federal Communications Commission as soon as possible. Although NAB does not currently oppose the nomination of Gigi Sohn, we have serious concerns about her involvement as one of three directors of the illegal streaming service Locast.

"NAB is confident that these concerns can be resolved. However, the ethics agreement that Ms. Sohn submitted to the Senate currently does not adequately address the inherent conflict presented by her recent leadership position at Locast and her potential role as an FCC commissioner. NAB is actively working with members of the Senate Commerce Committee and the White House to address this conflict and requests that Ms. Sohn submit an amended ethics agreement that meaningfully and effectively addresses this clear and troubling conflict."

Locast was an unauthorized streaming service that transmitted local broadcast signals over the internet in more than 30 television markets. Earlier this fall, a federal judge ruled that Locast did not qualify for a copyright exemption because it was a commercial operation, thereby rendering the service an unlawful attempt to circumvent Congress's retransmission consent framework. The court ordered the service to stop operating immediately.

Sohn is one of only three leaders at the company, along with one other director and former DISH executive and Locast founder, David Goodfriend. Two days after her nomination as commissioner, Sohn entered into a settlement with the plaintiffs in the case that enjoined her from operating Locast in the future or any other service seeking to exploit Congress's nonprofit exemption to the copyright laws. The company also agreed to pay the broadcaster plaintiffs $32 million as a result of its ongoing illegal activity.

NAB says it should be noted that Sohn was previously recused from considering retransmission consent issues while working as a staff member at the Commission, as she was a signee to the Petition for Rulemaking filed by numerous multichannel video programming distributors that opened the Commission's retransmission consent docket (MB Docket No. 10-71).

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