In a move that broadcasters can leverage to make their point about the relative value of their ad platform versus online, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) is slamming Google Ads, saying it has a troubling record of not weeding out fraud and abuse and calling on the company to pony up info in its ad practices and policies. Blumenthal, like many on the Hill, has been a sharp critic of edge provider privacy and marketing practices in general.
Congress is about to head out for summer recess after passing a bill to fund domestic computer chip manufacturing. But several other tech policy priorities, like antitrust reform, digital privacy regulation and net neutrality, remain unfinished. Here’s what Congress has left to do on tech policy later this year, and how likely it is to get done.
Indiana Rep. Jackie Walorski, 58, a former TV reporter in South Bend, Ind., died in a car accident Wednesday. Three others died in the head-on collision, including Walorski’s communications director Emma Thomson, and Zachery Potts, her district director, who were both riding in the car with Walorski. The driver of the other vehicle also died. First elected to House in 2012, she began her career as a TV reporter at WSBT South Bend.
With no progress expected on new network neutrality rules out of a politically tied FCC anytime soon, net neutrality fan Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) is introducing net neutrality legislation today (July 28).
Advertising the marijuana business just got a boost. A Senate bill filed July 26 would permit ads for cannabis products on radio and TV in any state tribe or territory where it is legal, without fear of federal penalties. Hemp businesses and products would also be covered under the bill. Sen. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) introduced the “Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Advertising Act.” The recent House spending package has a similar amendment attached.
The Biden administration’s controversial choice of Gigi Sohn to fill an open seat on the FCC has been in Senate confirmation limbo for months.In recent weeks, at the urging of progressive advocates of Sohn, the White House has been discussing possibly pushing the vote until after the midterms, which might give the Dems cover to vote for her confirmation in a lame duck session. But amid that discussion, the White House is also reaching out to other candidates as part of an early-stage vetting process if the administration decides to pull the plug on Sohn, according to one person with direct knowledge of the matter.
Democratic lawmakers’ inability to secure a majority at the FCC has stymied plans for the agency to restore Obama-era net neutrality rules. Amid the impasse, lawmakers are renewing efforts to take the issue into their own hands with a sweeping new bill, according to a copy. Led by Sens. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the Net Neutrality and Broadband Justice Act would reclassify broadband as a telecommunications service and open companies like AT&T and Verizon up to stricter oversight by the FCC.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday voted 53-2 to advance a sweeping bipartisan privacy bill that would outlaw a common form of online behavioral ad targeting. The version of the American Data Privacy and Protection Act approved Wednesday would prohibit companies from collecting or processing data about web users’ online activity across sites and over time for ad purposes. That ban would effectively prevent companies from serving ads to web users based on their browsing activity.
Broadcasters are praising the House of Representatives for telling the FCC to “Keep off the grass”… advertising, that is. The House Wednesday (July 20) passed the 2023 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill, which prevents the FCC from taking any actions against broadcasters who air cannabis advertising if it is not against the law in the state or jurisdiction in which the station is licensed. Broadcasters have been looking for such protections, arguing that without them they cannot air cannabis ads even where the product is legal, which is in most states.
House Republicans may be resisting President Joe Biden’s nominee for a third FCC Democrat, but they are urging the him to nominate an inspector general for the agency as it hands out billions of dollars in broadband subsidy funding under Biden. That came in a letter to the president signed by Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), House Energy & Commerce Committee ranking member; Robert Latta (R-Ohio), House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology ranking member; and Bill Johnson (R-Ohio).
The major advertising trade groups are urging lawmakers to significantly revise a proposed privacy bill that, as currently written, could require ad-tech companies to obtain consumers’ affirmative consent to draw on much of the data that fuels targeted online ads. In a letter sent to House Commerce Committee leaders on Monday, the ad groups say the bipartisan “American Data Privacy and Protection Act” should allow companies to take an opt-out approach to targeted advertising.
Lobbying both for and against legislation to crack down on U.S. tech giants is intensifying as the Senate enters a critical month for the antitrust bills. All eyes are on Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who will need to decide whether to prioritize measures to regulate Google, Apple, Amazon and Meta over other key bills prior to the August recess.
Facing a multimillion-dollar TV ad campaign by Big Tech to try and stop their online competition bill, sponsors of the American Innovation and Choice Online Act said they will not be thwarted by a campaign they assert is full of lies and disinformation. But the legislators also suggested the campaign may be working since the bill has yet to make it to the floor after a year of work refining the bill with input from stakeholders.
On Thursday night, most major broadcast networks and cable news outlets are slated to shake up their evening programming grid to show what is expected to be a shocking report from the U.S. House Select Committee, which has spent months investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol, and what may be coordinated efforts behind it.
Amazon is ramping up criticism of a key antitrust bill that aims to rein in the e-commerce giant’s power, in part by trying to distance itself from the other tech giants targeted by the proposed legislation. Brian Huseman Amazon’s VP of public policy published a blog post Wednesday slamming the bipartisan American Innovation and Choice Online Act, co-sponsored by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), in the company’s most extensive and direct criticism of the legislation.
Stepping up the culture war with Disney and other entertainment providers sympathetic to exposing kids to gender-identity themes, a group of Senate Republicans is calling on the TV Parental Guidelines Monitoring Board to help parents shield their children from LGBTQ characters and situations. The television monitoring board already helps parents identify programing with violent or sexual content, and now Republican lawmakers want it to alert them to “sexual orientation and gender identity content on children’s TV shows.”
Big Tech and antitrust enforcement activists are squaring off over a couple of bipartisan bills in Congress meant to address the size and power of tech giants like Facebook, Amazon and Google. They made their opposing views known in dueling letters to congressional leaders considering the new legislation.
Companies including Pinterest, Etsy and Vimeo are urging lawmakers to reject an anti-piracy proposal that would effectively require web companies to use as-yet-undeveloped filtering tools. The proposal “would inject uncertainty” into online copyright law, while also posing a risk to users’ privacy and their ability to access information, the companies and other opponents say in a letter sent this week to lawmakers. The letter comes in response to the proposed Strengthening Measures to Advance Rights Technologies (SMART) Copyright Act of 2022, introduced earlier this month by Sens. Thom Tillis (left) and Patrick Leahy.
House Democrats made a point of noting the absence of a fifth FCC commissioner — specifically Democratic nominee Gigi Sohn — at the first FCC oversight hearing in the current Congress on Thursday. In his opening statement, Communications Subcommittee Chairman Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) said he hoped the Senate would soon confirm Sohn to that seat.
Republicans on the Senate Commerce Committee have so far blocked the nominations of Georgetown University law professor Alvaro Bedoya to the FTC and consumer advocate Gigi Sohn to the FCC, largely on grounds that they are too partisan. That left both commissions deadlocked with a 2-2 split between Democrats and Republicans, denying agency leaders the majorities they needed to advance the Biden administration’s priorities. In response, Senate Democratic leaders are preparing to use a parliamentary maneuver known as a discharge petition to allow a floor vote on both nominees, according to people familiar with the matter.
Two Democratic lawmakers introduced a new bill last week that would institute a host of new regulations to scrutinize mergers, including a prohibition of those valued at more than $5 billion. The Prohibiting Anticompetitive Mergers Act, sponsored by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.), would also prevent mergers and acquisitions that would increase market share among sellers and buyers beyond certain thresholds and would give regulators additional tools to unwind mergers.
A divided Senate Commerce Committee finally voted Thursday (March 3) along party lines to send Gigi Sohn‘s nomination to the FCC to the full Senate for a vote, a big step toward her ultimate confirmation. The vote was 14-14, which means the nominee can get a floor vote, but with no favorable or unfavorable recommendation.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday told lawmakers that it opposes the nomination of longtime net-neutrality supporter Gigi Sohn to the FCC. “Ms. Sohn is one of the leading advocates for policies that amount to regulatory overreach in the broadband market,” Neil Bradley, EVP and chief policy officer at the business organization, said in a letter to leaders of the Senate Commerce Committee, which is slated to vote Thursday on Sohn’s nomination.
More than two months after the Senate delayed a vote on Gigi Sohn’s nomination to the FCC, her name is included on a list of presidential appointments set to be voted on by the House Commerce Committee on Thursday (March 3). While Sohn could yet face another delay, the planned vote suggests Committee Chair Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) thinks she has the votes needed to send the nomination to the full Senate.
Senate Commerce Committee Chair Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) has set March 3 for a vote by her committee on the nomination of Gigi Sohn for the open Democratic seat on the FCC. Sohn has had two nomination hearings but as yet no vote in the committee on whether to favorably report her to the full Senate for a confirmation vote. (C-SPAN photo)
They include preserving local journalism, opposing a performance tax on radio stations, increasing diversity and relaxing station ownership rules.
FCC nominee Gigi Sohn faced a strongly divided Senate Commerce Committee Wednesday at the second hearing on her nomination to the agency‘s open seat as the pushback from Republicans on her nomination continued. Democrats spent their time having her back while Republicans fired away over various issues. Both sides conceded her extensive communications experience and her reputation as a brilliant and effective public interest advocate, but that is where the agreement basically ended.
The drawn-out confirmation process for FCC nominee Gigi Sohn was further delayed last week by a medical emergency, and the more time that passes, the less likely confirmation seems. Sen. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) is in recovery after having a stroke in Albuquerque, putting the Senate Commerce Committee’s efforts to advance Sohn in limbo. While Luján is expected to make a full recovery and be back to work in four to six weeks, in the interim, the Commerce Committee has decided to hold a second nomination hearing for Sohn on Feb. 9, focusing on Sohn’s recusals from any commission items relating to retransmission consent and TV broadcast copyright, as well as her involvement in now-defunct TV streaming service Locast, where Sohn served as a board member. Public interest advocates called the second hearing unusual, and policy experts noted that the lengthier timeline may leave moderate democrats more opportunity to reconsider their support for an embattled nominee.
On Thursday, the full Senate approved three of President Joe Biden’s four nominees to serve on CPB’s board of directors: Laura Gore Ross, Elizabeth Sembler and Tom Rothman. Biden’s fourth nominee is Kathy Im, director of journalism and media for the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Her nomination remains on the Senate calendar, according to a CPB spokesperson.
Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) has scheduled a second nomination hearing for Democratic FCC nominee Gigi Sohn. The hearing is slated for 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 9. Ranking member Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), had suggested another hearing was needed.
The Senate Antitrust Subcommittee has scheduled a hearing next week titled “Breaking the News — Journalism, Competition and the Effects of Market Power on a Free Press.” The Feb. 2 hearing is likely to include some focus on a proposed Senate bill, the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act, which would grant publishers immunity from federal and state antitrust laws for 48 months while they bargain collectively with digital platforms.
Republican leaders on the House Energy and Commerce Committee have sent a letter to NBCUniversal executives voicing concerns about “the extent of influence the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) may have over NBCUniversal’s coverage of the games.” the letter, addressed to NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell and NBC Olympics President Gary Zenkel, asks NBC how it plans to use its “investment in the Games to shed light on China’s history of human rights abuses.”
Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), chair of the powerful Senate Commerce Committee, is still looking to hold a confirmation vote for FCC nominee Gigi Sohn sometime soon. Sohn‘s nomination has gotten pushback from Republicans citing her support for Title II-based network neutrality rules and her support of fair-use carveouts from content copyright protections, and Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) has said he would put a hold on her nomination before it got to a floor vote.
A major piece of legislation aimed at limiting the business conduct of Amazon and other tech platforms cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, underscoring a bipartisan desire to curb the influence of major internet companies.
Gigi Sohn, President Biden’s pick to fill the remaining vacancy on the FCC, continues to have an uncertain fate. Democrats are pushing for a vote on her nomination, while Republicans would rather the Senate Commerce Committee hold another hearing to examine Sohn’s role in a now-closed TV streaming service. The committee’s top Republican, Sen. Roger Wicker (Miss.), wants to put more questions to Sohn about her role as a board member on the nonprofit that operated Locast. The streaming service distributed local TV station signals online until a judge last year ordered it be shut down for violating copyright law. The company paid $32 million to settle claims brought by broadcasters.
The Association of National Advertisers, Interactive Advertising Bureau, U.S. Chamber of Congress and other business groups are asking lawmakers to pass a privacy law that would override state measures. “A growing patchwork of state laws are emerging which threaten innovation and create consumer and business confusion,” dozens of organizations said in a letter sent to Congress last week.
The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol issued subpoenas on Thursday to four major social media companies — Alphabet, Meta, Reddit and Twitter — criticizing them for allowing extremism to spread on their platforms and saying they have failed to cooperate adequately with the inquiry.
The ranking member on the powerful Senate Commerce Committee wants the relationship between new FCC chair Jessica Rosenworcel and new NTIA head Alan Davidson to start out on the right foot. In a letter to both, Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), called on the FCC and the National Telecommunications & Information Administration to work together to better coordinate spectrum policy.
Veteran fair-use advocate and former top FCC counselor Gigi Sohn has collected endorsements for the agency‘s open Democratic seat from various groups and legislators. But a single senator can block a full Senate vote on her confirmation and a single senator — Tom Tillis (R-N.C.) — is still signaling that is what he will do if Sohn‘s nomination is favorably reported out of the Senate Commerce Committee.