Few probably would have guessed that the industry would still be waiting around in late July for the Biden Administration to name a permanent FCC chair, but that’s where things stand. New Street Research public policy analyst Blair Levin recently said: “While interim Chair [Jessica] Rosenworcel continues to have significant Senate support, her inability to obtain the nomination after more than six months suggests to us that there is some internal White House opposition. But there is no clear front-runner for replacing her.”
TVNewsCheck‘s Michael Depp and Harry Jessell discuss the uncertainty lingering at the FCC, where Acting Chair Jessica Rosenworcel may be facing contention for the permanent job and a fifth commissioner has yet to be appointed.
The head-scratching inside the Beltway continues as the wait for a fifth Democratic Federal Communications Commission member — and for whoever is to be named the agency’s permanent chair — continues. Initial delays were thought to involve a decision between acting chair Jessica Rosenworcel and current commissioner Geoffrey Starks. But the name of broadband backer and one-time Public Knowledge head Gigi Sohn has surfaced as a new possible alternative — and one for whom the buzz had been growing
While the Biden administration has been slow to appoint the key decisionmakers at agencies overseeing technology issues, a handful of people are on the inside track to lead them. By and large, these likely appointees do not have direct ties to Big Tech companies and have advocated for tougher measures against the industry. Many also previously served in the Obama administration and fall in the progressive camp.
Gigi Sohn, former adviser to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and before that head of fair use advocates Public Knowledge, has joined Locast’s board of directors. Locast streams TV station signals online, using a copyright carveout to do so without having to seek permission from the station or pay a license fee, which Locast argues is essentially a “fair use” of the signals under the law, though the TV networks see it differently.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is tackling several priorities while in office, according to a counselor to the chairman, Gigi Sohn. Following is a look at what he’s focused on for the remainder of his term, as outlined by Sohn at the Practicing Law Institute’s webcast on Communications Law in the Digital Age.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is not a “lapdog” for President Obama, said Gigi Sohn, a special counsel for the chairman. During an interview Tuesday, Sohn gave one of the FCC’s strongest defenses of Wheeler, denying that Obama is the one who swayed the independent agency into reclassifying broadband Internet under rules governing traditional telephones.
The newly appointed FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has pieced together a top staff that comprises three “blue-ribbon, card-carrying members of the FCC club” and two “true believers” who seem to become more liberal and interventionist the older they get.
Gigi Sohn, the founder of public interest group Public Knowledge, has argued that the FCC can require interim carriage of broadcast signals to avoid blackouts during retransmission consent negotiating impasses. However, some industry observers say that in her new position as FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s special counsel for external affairs, she may change her tune on some key issues now that she is officially representing the FCC. Says one: “She has to think about whether a court will uphold an action, and in the past she has shown an ability to be pragmatic.”
Gigi Sohn, who has headed the nonprofit advocacy group Public Knowledge for 12 years, is joining new FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s staff as special counsel for external affairs. The appointment of Sohn is sure to raise eyebrows in some circles. She has been a critic of media consolidation, and her views on copyright protection are often at odds with those of the entertainment industry. She is also an advocate of Net Neutrality rules that most major cable and telephone broadband providers have fought.