Conservative speech may be restricted if President Biden’s nominee for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is confirmed, Republican leaders warn.
A nomination hearing for Gigi Sohn could happen as early as this week. The White House insists that Sohn is a leading advocate for open and affordable communications networks that promote democracy. But some Republicans insist she is a progressive partisan who wants to silence conservative voices and is the president’s most dangerous nomination yet.
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Sohn, a communications attorney, is one of two of the president’s progressive picks for the agency and a longtime supporter of net neutrality regulation. Previously serving as counselor to the FCC chair under Barack Obama, Sohn was an architect of the commission’s 2015 net neutrality order, which was gutted by a Republican-led FCC two years later.
Sohn is the founder of “Public Knowledge,” which wants more government control of the internet and media. She also has hinted at deploying the agency’s regulatory power to censor conservative media and revive a version of its mooted fairness doctrine. The FCC wields extensive authority over broadband providers, wireless companies and TV and radio broadcasters. She has tweeted regularly about banning conservative opinions in the media, even calling for Sinclair Broadcasting Radio network to be shut down because of its popular conservative talk shows.
She also supports a feature in the pending Build Back Better legislation to provide billions of dollars in federal payouts through tax credits to national and local media reporters and producers. Critics say it’s payback to a friendly media that helped elect Joe Biden.
While criticism is widespread, she’s also been given credit by conservative outlets OAN and Newsmax for opening the way for them to be added to local cable networks. The conflicting actions pose a challenge for defenders of free speech.
For all my concerns about #Facebook, I believe that Fox News has had the most negative impact on our democracy. It's state-sponsored propaganda, with few if any opposing viewpoints. Where's the hearing about that? https://t.co/Zwx6KFzrff
— Gigi Sohn (@gigibsohn) October 28, 2020
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., blasted the nomination on Twitter, saying . “Gigi Sohn is a complete political ideologue who has disdain for conservatives … She would be a complete nightmare for the country when it comes to regulating the public airwaves. I will do everything in my power to convince colleagues on both sides of the aisle to reject this extreme nominee.”
GOP critics also point to past statements, saying they are red flags that she will censor conservative media. Currently, the agency is deadlocked in a partisan 2-2 tie, rendering it politically hamstrung. Sohn’s nomination comes with that of FCC Acting Chair Jessica Rosenworcel for a second term. Their nominations come as Biden hopes to spend billions on an expansion of access to high-speed broadband in his infrastructure package.
National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) president and CEO Gordon Smith has expressed “serious concerns” about her past work and statements.
While Sohn could get confirmed with only Democratic votes, she did get some praise from a Republican. Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS), told her that “you have impressed me this morning” with her answers.
Yahoo News reports she would be the first openly homosexual head of the FCC.
–Alan Goforth | Metro Voice