On Monday, one month after she was nominated, the National Association of Broadcasters released a not-so-supportive statement on the President’s nomination of Gigi Sohn to fill an open seat on the Federal Communications Commission. This all has to do with an illegal streaming service the NAB says Sohn was a part of.
NAB CEO Gordon Smith said despite the need to have a full five-member FCC, the NAB has serious concerns about Sohn. “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.