After a drawn-out Senate battle last year which resulted in no confirmation, President Joe Biden has once again nominated Gigi Sohn for the fifth FCC Commissioner seat. Sohn, a former top FCC adviser, is also the co-founder of Public Knowledge, a non-profit advocating for copyright, telecommunications, and internet policies. If confirmed, Sohn would fill out the FCC with three Democrats and two Republicans. Furthermore, if confirmed, Sohn will become the first openly LGBTQIA+ Commissioner for the FCC. However, Sohn’s nomination has faced opposition from Republicans, as well as from some moderate Democrats.
The current 2-2 deadlock has hindered the FCC from advancing on certain ambitious policy goals, such as reinstating net neutrality protections or imposing new rules to limit media consolidation. However, the midterm elections in November, where Democrats gained control of the Senate, have given rise to the possibility that Sohn will receive enough Senate support to become the Commission’s fifth and tie-breaking Commissioner.
Republicans opposing Sohn claim that her prior social media posts show a liberal leaning and consider Sohn unsuitable for confirmation. Sohn has also received criticism for having to recuse herself from “any other matter where retransmission consent or television broadcast copyright is a material issue in the Commission’s disposition of a proceeding…”. This recusal stems from Sohn having served on the board of Locast, a broadcast streaming service that lost a copyright infringement lawsuit brought by broadcasters. However, the Communications Workers of America, a union representing workers at telecom companies, is urging a Senate vote in favor of Sohn.
A hearing on Sohn’s re-nomination has not yet been scheduled.
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