It’s official: the White House is moving forward with making acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel the agency’s official Chair — making her the first woman to formally hold the seat.
Further, the Biden Administration is indeed seeking to bring Gigi Sohn back to the FCC, not as Rosenworcel’s successor but as a progressive Commissioner who has been the subject of rumors for months.
“It’s the honor of a lifetime to be designated to serve as FCC Chair,” Rosenworcel said on her personal Twitter feed. “Thank you @POTUS, my family, my mentors. I wouldn’t be here without those who came before and paved the way. Looking forward to working with @gigibsohn and [NTIA nominee] @abdavidson so that modern communications reach all.”
While Rosenworcel’s confirmation as FCC Chair is widely expected to come easily, a Congressional battle over Sohn’s nomination could come with precious weeks remaining in this legislative year — keeping a 2-2 deadlock in place.
The nomination of Rosenworcel erases the unthinkable — a 2-1 Republican majority with a Democrat in the White House as Congress blocks both nominations, leading to the end of Rosenworcel’s term and her exit from the Commission.
“During her time at the agency, she has worked to promote greater opportunity, accessibility, and affordability in our communications services in order to ensure that all Americans get a fair shot at 21st century success,” a White House statement said of Rosenworcel. “From fighting to protect an open internet, to ensuring broadband access for students caught in the Homework Gap through the FCC’s Emergency Connectivity Fund, to making sure that households struggling to afford internet service stay connected through the Emergency Broadband Benefit program, she has been a champion for connectivity for all.”
As news of the nominations emerged, former Oregon Senator and NAB President/CEO Gordon Smith was among the first to offer congratulations to Rosenworcel.
“As the first woman nominated as permanent chair, this marks a significant milestone at the Commission and a fitting progression in her long and distinguished career in public service,” he said of Rosenworcel, a Commissioner since 2012 who assumed the acting Chairwoman role at the start of the Biden administration.
The NAB also extended congratulations to Sohn on her nomination to the Commission. “We look forward to working with the full Commission on how the FCC can ensure a thriving local broadcast industry,” Smith said.
Sohn is a Distinguished Fellow at the Georgetown Law Institute for Technology Law & Policy and a Benton Senior Fellow and Public Advocate.
She’s one of the nation’s leading public advocates for “open, affordable, and democratic communications networks” — a.k.a. net neutrality.
“For over thirty years, Gigi has worked to defend and preserve the fundamental competition and innovation policies that have made broadband Internet access more ubiquitous, competitive, affordable, open, and protective of user privacy,” the White House said.
If she is confirmed, Sohn would be the first openly LGBTIQ+ Commissioner in the history of the FCC.
Sohn from 2013-2016 served as Counselor to Ajit Pai’s predecessor, Wheeler. From 2001-2013, Sohn served as CEO of Public Knowledge, the communications and technology policy advocacy organization she co-founded.
Sohn has also served as an Executive Director of progressive-leaning public interest law firm Media Access Project.
Should Sohn be nominated, she will most certainly clash with Republican Nathan Simington, who has picked up the torch from Mike O’Rielly as broadcast media’s biggest supporter. Simington is slated to address some of his policy objectives at Forecast 2022 in New York, on November 16.
With so many broadcast media proposals at the Commission, what should radio and TV station C-Suite leaders keep their eyes on? A Forecast 2022 session picks up where our October 12 InFOCUS Podcast left off, with noted Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth co-Managing Partner Frank Montero moderating a panel set to include Colorado Broadcasters Association President/CEO Justin Sasso, Kagan Senior Research Analyst for Broadcast Media Justin Nielson, PMCM TV and Press Communication LLC CEO Bob Mc Allan, and BIA Advisory Services SVP and Chief Economist Dr. Mark Fratrik.
The coming leadership solidification at the FCC is a topic every broadcast management and ownership leader needs to keep on top of. Being at Forecast 2022 offers the best opportunity to stay abreast of what’s ahead in Washington, from Rosenworcel’s desk to Capitol Hill.