NAB Raises Red Flag Over Gigi Sohn’s Locast Directorship

Gigi Sohn
Democratic FCC nominee Gigi Sohn (Image credit: Public Knowledge)

The National Association of Broadcasters said though it does not “currently” oppose the nomination of Gigi Sohn to be the third Democratic vote on the five-member Federal Communications Commission, it has big problems with her connection to former TV station streamer Locast and wants Sohn to clear them up.

“We have serious concerns about her involvement as one of three directors of the illegal streaming service Locast,” NAB president and CEO Gordon Smith said of the Biden administration’s nominee for the agency’s decisive third Democratic seat. Sohn had joined the Locast board last March, when she was serving as a distinguished fellow at Georgetown Law Institute for Technology, Law & Policy. 

Locast was forced to suspend operations after a court concluded it was violating the law by streaming TV station signals without negotiating payment from those broadcasters. Locast had argued that because it was operating as a nonprofit, seeking a minimum “donation” of $5 a month from its users, it was protected under the Copyright Act.

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Though Smith said NAB believes its concerns can be resolved, he said that Sohn's ethics agreement — sent to the Senate in advance of her Dec. 1 nomination hearing — did not address what Smith said was the “inherent conflict presented by her recent leadership position at Locast and her potential role as an FCC commissioner.”

The NAB has asked Sohn to submit an amended ethics agreement that “effectively addresses” what Smith called a “clear and troubling conflict.”

Sohn has long championed a broad definition of fair use, which Locast founder David Goodfriend said his streaming service’s use of TV signals represented, citing a copyright law carve-out for nonprofits. ■

John Eggerton

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.