Telecommunications professionals are concerned that President Joe Biden’s appointment of a longtime political activist to the Federal Communications Commission may turn the agency into a weapon against conservatives.
The Washington Free Beacon reports, Gigi Sohn has urged the FCC to expand its investigative and regulatory powers over conservative networks. She has also proposed that one of the most prominent conservative broadcasting organizations be denied a broadcast license and has created a foundation that is aggressively lobbying cable providers to remove the right-wing One America News Network (OANN) from their lineup.
Katie McAuliffe, the executive director of the pro-market non-profit Digital Liberty, said, “There’s reason for concern she’d take punitive action against conservative voices,” explaining that she could “use the broadcast licensing regime to challenge someone’s use of the airwaves.”
Television networks must have an FCC license to broadcast on the air. The agency can cancel licenses that have already been issued, and Sohn, if confirmed, will be one of five commissioners who decide on broadcast licensees.
Sohn has made it clear where she stands on this topic throughout her career.
In 2018, she questioned if “Sinclair is qualified to be a broadcast licensee at all” after the right-leaning network put off a merger with Tribune Broadcasting. She’s also suggested that Fox News be investigated by Congress for presenting “few, if any, opposing viewpoints.”
Last year, Sohn backed Free Press, an activist organization that petitioned the FCC to apply the “broadcast hoax” rule, which empowers the agency to intercede when broadcasts create “substantial public harm” to the public interest. According to the Free Press, former President Donald Trump’s March 2020 comment, “I hear the figures are becoming much better in Italy,” regarding coronavirus may have violated the rule.
Sohn is a known progressive advocate who reportedly has “personal relationships with power players all over the capital.” She is one of the cofounders of Public Knowledge, a non-profit that “promotes freedom of expression and an open internet.”
Public Knowledge president Christopher Lewis claimed that they are not interested in having the government limit protected speech but said, “It’s hard for us to fight for free expression when there’s so much disinformation.” He insists that the organization is still devoted to “free expression and promoting diversity of content,” despite its efforts to remove OANN from the airwaves. Oddly, OANN has thrown its support behind Sohn’s nomination in the expectation that she will be an ally in cable carrier issues.
However, she faces a tough battle in the Senate, where she is scheduled to testify on December 1. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) has dubbed her a “hack” and promised to oppose her nomination. Several Democratic senators are also considering rejecting Sohn because she supports net neutrality.
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