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FCC Nominee Sohn Pledges Recusal From Some Broadcast Matters (1)

Jan. 27, 2022, 11:16 PMUpdated: Jan. 28, 2022, 12:14 AM

Federal Communications Commission nominee Gigi Sohn has pledged to recuse herself temporarily from two broadcast regulatory issues if confirmed by the Senate to an agency seat.

Sohn agreed to recuse herself from matters involving retransmission consent or television broadcast copyright for the first three years of her term, in a letter to P. Michele Ellison, the FCC’s acting general counsel.

Sohn also said she would recuse herself for four years from a docket concerning the rules governing retranmission consent or any related FCC dockets, according to the letter obtained by Bloomberg Law.

As president of Public Knowledge, Sohn in 2010 signed a petition for rulemaking urging the FCC to amend and supplement the rules governing retransmission consent that became the basis for that docket.

Though her ethics agreement does not require Sohn to recuse, she wrote, she would “to avoid any appearance of impropriety and in interest of ensuring that the public has full confidence that policymakers will make decisions free of bias.”

The National Association of Broadcasters has pushed for Sohn to recuse from certain broadcast issues, citing concerns about her tenure as a board member of Locast, a nonprofit that was ordered to shut down after illegally streaming programming.

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“Ms. Sohn’s recusal agreement resolves the concerns NAB raised regarding her nomination,” NAB said in a statement.

“NAB appreciates Ms. Sohn’s willingness to seriously consider our issues regarding retransmission consent and broadcast copyright, and to address those concerns in her recusal. We look forward to the Senate moving forward with Ms. Sohn’s confirmation and are eager to work with her and the full complement of commissioners in the very near future,” the association added.

The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee is scheduled to vote on Sohn’s nomination Feb. 2.

Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), the panel’s ranking member, has called for a second confirmation hearing citing concerns about Sohn’s Locast ties. Now, Wicker is saying the recusal is another reason to have a second hearing.

“Senators should be given the opportunity to question the contours and scope of the recusal, how it would impact the operations of the commission if Ms. Sohn is confirmed, and whether the recusal was developed in coordination with any third parties,” Wicker said.

Wicker said committee chair Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) hasn’t responded to his requests.

(Updated with additional reporting.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Maria Curi at mcuri@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Keith Perine at kperine@bloomberglaw.com

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