On February 2, 2022, FCC nominee Gigi Sohn was to attend a nomination hearing, but after Democratic Senator Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico suffered a stroke, the Senate Commerce Committee rescheduled Sohn’s hearing. The rescheduled nomination hearing will be on February 9, 2022, and will likely address concerns over Sohn’s former position on the board of Locast, a broadcast streaming service that lost a copyright infringement lawsuit brought by broadcasters such as ABC, NBCUniversal, Disney, and others. It is not yet clear when the Commerce Committee will vote on Sohn’s nomination.
On January 27, 2022, Sohn sent a letter to the FCC indicating that she would recuse herself from issues of retransmission consent and broadcast copyright. Sohn’s letter specifies her recusal for the first three years of her term will be from “any other matter where retransmission consent or television broadcast copyright is a material issue in the Commission’s disposition of a proceeding…” This stems from a ruling by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York finding that Locast had violated copyright by streaming broadcasts without permission or compensation. Under the judgment Locast was to pay $32 million in damages and was barred from operating its service. Since then, the broadcasters agreed to settle for roughly $700,000 in cash and the liquidation of used computer servers.
Despite Sohn’s recusal, there are still questions about her nomination. In a letter sent to Committee Chairwoman Cantwell, the Directors Guild of America object to Sohn’s nomination “in the strongest terms.” The DGA cites Sohn’s hostility toward copyright laws and record of “anti-copyright advocacy” as reasoning for their opposition.
The National Association of Broadcasters had also previously expressed concerns. In an interview with Politico, NAB CEO Curtis LeGeyt said, “On issues where retransmission consent is material, there are going to be some real concerns from the broadcast industry’s perspective on her involvement there”. NAB has since said that Sohn’s recusal has resolved their concerns and that the NAB “look[s] forward to the Senate moving forward with Ms. Sohn’s confirmation…”
The hearing will be available for public viewing at 10:00 a.m. ET via live feed on the Senate Commerce Committee website.