Gigi Sohn: Quid Pro Quo?
by Phil Kerpen
Gigi Sohn has a SECOND apparent corrupt deal with broadcasters.
In May 2020, Sohn joined the Board of Locast, a company formed for the purpose of streaming stolen, bootleg sports content over the Internet. Locast would then charge its users $5 a month to view the pirated content without interruption – a bargain only possible when the content you're selling was stolen. Sohn was one of the three key principals of the organization, serving on its board of directors. And she knew exactly what she was doing – she joined the organization after broadcasters had sued Locast for violating the Copyright Act.
Not surprisingly, in August of last year, Judge Louis Stanton of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled in favor of the broadcasters. Judge Stanton later signed an order that awarded the plaintiffs $32 million in damages.
One day after President Biden nominated Sohn to fill the decisive seat on the FCC, Sohn executed a settlement agreement that slashed the companies liability 98 percent, from $32 million to just $700,000. A sweetheart deal for the broadcasters' new would-be regulator. And as the Wall Street Journal editorial board put it, “Interesting timing.”
But a side deal may have been even more corrupt. On November 29, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) issued a statement saying: “Although NAB does not currently oppose the nomination of Gigi Sohn, we have serious concerns.” They also said: “NAB is confident that these concerns can be resolved.”
In other words, come on back our new friend we just gifted $31 million in liability relief – let's make another deal. Sohn knew opposition from NAB could sink her nomination, as moderate Democrats like Senator Jacky Rosen had expressed concerns about Sohn’s views on media issues.
On January 27, Sohn agreed voluntarily to recuse—meaning, not to regulate— retransmission consent, which is a key revenue stream for the broadcast sector. Then, around 6:30PM that same day, so just two hours later, NAB put out at statement publicly endorsing Sohn for the FCC.
They went from "serious concerns" to "We look forward to the Senate moving forward" in what appeared plainly to be a quid pro quo.
Not only did broadcasters let Sohn's company off the hook financials, but they also secured a promise from an otherwise hard-left, regulate-everything advocate to give them – and only them – a pass. Then they gave her nomination a green light.
But the recusal deal fundamentally proves Sohn's unfitness for the job. An FCC commissioner should not be beholden to the broadcasters. That is why Senator Roger Wicker has been right to call for a second hearing to get to the bottom of this sordid conduct and both Sohn deals with the broadcasters. But no matter how she answers these questions, Sohn is simply too ethically compromised at this point to serve on the FCC and should withdraw her nomination.
Photo Credit: Joel Sage, https://www.flickr.com/photos/joelsage/7997218517/