The National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU), which represents 800 Federal Communications Commission employees, has come out in support of the nomination of Gigi Sohn for the long-vacant fifth seat — and third Democrat — on the commission.
In a letter to Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, which failed to successfully report Sohn's nomination to the full Senate for a vote, NTEU said it was concerned about the continued vacancy and that Sohn was a highly qualified nominee whose nomination should be moved out of committee for a floor vote.
“NTEU believes that Ms. Gigi Sohn is a highly qualified nominee,” NETU national president Anthony Reardon said. “She is a former staff member of the FCC and knows the agency well and she would be an excellent member of the Commission. Furthermore, I feel that any further delay in the confirmation of her nomination threatens to inhibit progress at the FCC to the detriment of both the workforce and the American consumer.
“It is time for the country to allow this Commission and its employees to be fully staffed and functioning,” he added. “Ms. Sohn has a stellar record as a telecom expert. I would urge you and your staff can do all that you are able to move this nomination forward.”
A supporter of Sohn said it was the first time NTEU had endorsed an FCC candidate. A representative of the union was not available at press time to confirm that.
The FCC has been without the Democratic majority secured with President Joe Biden’s election for over a year and a half, leaving it to tackle bipartisan issues but not such hot-button topics as the return of net neutrality rules, which both the current two Democratic FCC commissioners and Biden support; Universal Service reform; and potential reregulation of broadcast ownership deregulated under Republican FCC chairman Ajit Pai.
Sohn would be the first former civil society group activist — she headed Public Knowledge — to sit on the commission, which has featured any number of former lobbyists, including chairmen, from both parties.
While Sohn brings a wealth of experience, including as a former top adviser to FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, she also brings some baggage that vexes Republicans as well as cable and broadcast entities, including her support of Title II-based net neutrality rules; her association with streaming service Locast, which broadcasters successfully sued over copyright issues, and her past criticism of some big media players, notably Fox News Channel. ▪️
Broadcasting & Cable Newsletter
The smarter way to stay on top of broadcasting and cable industry. Sign up below
Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.