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December 1, 2021 Press Office: 202-224-1403
VIDEO: Blunt Questions FCC Nominee Gigi Sohn About Fox News Tweets, Locast Lawsuit
WASHINGTON – During a U.S. Senate Commerce Committee hearing today, U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.) questioned Gigi Sohn, who has been nominated to serve as Commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission, about her social media posts attacking Fox News as well as the potential conflict of interest arising from her leadership role at Locast, which was found by a federal district court to have illegally transmitted local television station content.
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Following is a Transcript:
BLUNT: Ms. Sohn, we’re talking about local news, local radio. Let’s talk about Locast a little bit. You were on that board. Locast built its business model on streaming local television to the internet, generally without obtaining the consent of the broadcast TV station or the copyright holders. There was a lawsuit. You went on that board actually after the lawsuit started. And at this point, I think in August, there was a determination that Locast agreed to a settlement. So no appeal here – $32 million settlement. Do you want to talk about that, your decision to go on the board and if this impacts your dealings with the very same local broadcasters that sued the company that you were on the board of? And I only have five minutes. So I’m sure you can talk about this a lot, but be as brief as you can in clearing this up for me.
SOHN: Sure, Senator Blunt. So Locast was a nonprofit service that provided local broadcast signals through streaming to folks who couldn’t get them, and it relied on a copyright exemption. Okay, this was a case of first impression. It relied on an exemption for nonprofits. I thought it was a good thing, both for local broadcasters. And local broadcasters didn’t sue. The networks sued. I also thought it was good for viewers. And these were viewers, for example, in orphaned counties who maybe couldn’t get certain programming. There were a lot of low income folks that also used the service. So I thought this was, from a public interest, pro-consumer perspective, I thought this was good.
BLUNT: But the judge didn’t agree?
SOHN: Well, no. What the judge said—let me be, let me be specific about this—what the judge said was Locast was not entitled to the exemption. So it was literally within days of that decision coming down, we shut Locast down. And it’s in the process of selling its assets, and it’ll probably will no longer exist by the end of the year.
BLUNT: And you don’t think this will have any impact on your dealing with local broadcasters in any way?
SOHN: I do not believe it will. Like I said, I revere local broadcasting. I think it’s very important. I would like, if I’m confirmed, I would really like to sit down with them, explain what I did, and get from them ideas about how I can help local broadcasting be more competitive, more resilient, and more diverse.
BLUNT: And the networks that you say are the ones that sued Locast, no problem with them either?
SOHN: I don’t have any problem with them. I mean, just you know, I have no hard feelings. And it wouldn’t bias me in any way. I take very seriously allegations of bias. And I’ve been working very closely with the Office of Government Ethics to make sure that, you know, I have no conflicts and I have no, you know, predetermined biases. No, just because they sued Locast, no, that that wouldn’t, that wouldn’t bias my decisions. And as a policymaker, if I’m confirmed, I have to set my biases, even if I had a bias, I have to set those aside, look at the totality of the record, look at the law, confer with my colleagues, confer with staff, confer with all of you, and make a decision.
BLUNT: So I’ve got a list of comments here about Fox News. Are you biased against them?
SOHN: So, you are referring to my tweets that are now pretty famous. I understand they’re concerning to some, and anyone who knows me knows I’m pretty direct. But they were made in my role as a public interest advocate. They were made in the context—and I think context is very important—context of hearings, hearings and media reports. You know, maybe the tone was a little sharper. Maybe I should have dulled it a little bit. But again, it was, it was part of my job essentially as a public interest advocate.
BLUNT: And do you think they’re the only news agency that is state sponsored propaganda?
SOHN: Let me—
BLUNT: That’s your quote by the way.
SOHN: Yeah, I know it’s my quote, yeah. I just want to just, to complete my thought. My opinions as a public interest advocate will have no bearing on how I behave as a policymaker if I’m confirmed. You know, I’ve been in government before, and the values that are important to being a policymaker—responsiveness, transparency, integrity—that’s what you’ll get from me if I’m confirmed. So yes, I said some things maybe too sharp, but they will have absolutely no determination in how I would rule on a proceeding with any of those companies.
BLUNT: Well, I wish I had more time, chair. But I don’t, so.