Sohn Recuse Agreement Scores NAB Approval


Until now, the role Gigi Sohn has had a board member of a “virtual Over-the-Air” television services provider that purported to be a non-profit before a New York Federal judge’s decision led to its demise has been a bone of contention with the NAB.

Now, the biggest advocacy voice and lobbying group on Capitol Hill for the U.S. broadcast media industry seems to be fine with Sohn’s seating as a FCC Commissioner. Why? She’s agreed to recuse herself from two sensitive subjects should she be on the Commission.

In a letter sent to the FCC, Sohn has agreed to excuse herself from two specific matters because of a potential conflict of interest or lack of impartiality. First, she would recuse herself from matters involving retransmission consent or television broadcast copyright for the first three years of her term. Second, Sohn agreed to recuse herself for four years from a docket concerning the rules governing retransmission consent.

That statement led the NAB’s CEO, Curtis LeGeyt, to state that it is now accepting the possibility of Sohn becoming a FCC Commissioner — although her fate is up to a Senate full of skeptical Republicans.

In a statement released late Thursday, LeGeyt said, “Sohn’s recusal agreement resolves the concerns NAB raised regarding her nomination. NAB appreciates Ms. Sohn’s willingness to seriously consider our issues regarding retransmission consent and broadcast copyright, and to address those concerns in her recusal. We look forward to the Senate moving forward with Ms. Sohn’s confirmation and are eager to work with her and the full complement of commissioners in the very near future.”

While her first nomination from the Biden Administration was opposed by the NAB, it was highly disturbed by her involvement in Locast, a now-shuttered service that purported to be a non-profit local TV-by-IP service that skirted around retransmission consent accords.

Locast officially collapsed in mid-September following a decision by a New York Federal District Court Judge to decline its request for summary judgment in a case focused on copyright infringement brought against the operation by the nation’s “Big Four” broadcast TV networks.

— Additional reporting by Ed Ryan