Above Photo: Media democracy advocate Gigi Sohn, nominated to the Federal Communications Commission in October 2021 (FAIR.org, 4 / 19/22, 6/15/22, 10/28/22), still awaits a confirmation vote in the Senate—which means the public still awaits a functioning FCC that can protect its interests.
This month President Joe Biden renominated the highly qualified Sohn, whose confirmation has now been stalled for a record-breaking amount of time. With a 50/50 split in the Senate, Democrats had failed to muster enough support for a vote in the face of strong opposition from deep-pocketed big media corporations like Comcast.
The FCC has been operating without a fifth member for well over a year, which has left it deadlocked with two Democratic and two Republican members. That’s great news for the telecom industry, which is enjoying the FCC’s inability to do things like restore net neutrality (which was implemented under Obama and repealed under Trump), ensure equal access to broadband, prevent further consolidation of big media, and crack down on wireless carriers’ abuse of private user location data.
Sohn’s renomination, and the record-breaking delay on her vote, have been met with virtual radio silence in news media. Only a small handful of newspapers and online news outlets have covered the nomination; FAIR could find no mentions on TV news in a search of the Nexis news database.
In one noteworthy exception, the Mercury News and East Bay Times editorial boards published an editorial (1/19/23) supporting Sohn’s nomination and declaring, “Enough is enough.” In addition to highlighting Sohn’s qualifications, the Silicon Valley-based editors pointed to “the importance of net neutrality” to the tech industry, which depends on “fair, open competition in the content market.”
A handful of smaller online publications like American Prospect, the Verge, TechDirt and ArsTechnica are the only non-right-wing outlets to consistently cover the battle over Sohn’s confirmation, despite its importance to every person in this country who watches TV, uses the internet or has a cell phone.
As we pointed out last year (6/15/22), while Fox News had made repeated attacks on Sohn, MSNBC—which has reported on several other blocked Biden nominees—had not mentioned her name on air once since her initial nomination. In the seven months since then, what passes for a left-leaning cable network has still failed to speak Sohn’s name. (MSNBC.com did publish one guest column about digital redlining—10/27/22—that advocated for Sohn’s confirmation to address the issue.) CNN has also been silent on Sohn, though a CNN Business article (CNN.com, 7/19/22) on net neutrality mentioned that “the Senate has yet to confirm Gigi Sohn, Biden’s nominee to fill the fifth and final seat on the commission.”
Cable news isn’t directly regulated by the FCC, whose purview is public, not private, communications infrastructure. But note: Fox News is owned by Rupert Murdoch, who also owns Fox Broadcasting Company; MSNBC is owned by telecom behemoth Comcast, which has been actively lobbying against Sohn (Ars Technica, 1/13/22); and CNN is now owned by fellow telecom giant AT&T.
Media conglomerates will always have armies of lobbyists to make their interests heard at the FCC; the public interest needs to overcome a media blockade to get its representative on the board.