Preston Padden: Gigi Sohn Deserves FCC Seat

FCC nominee Gigi Sohn at Senate confirmation hearing
FCC nominee Gigi Sohn at Senate confirmation hearing (Image credit: C-SPAN)

Former top Fox and Disney executive and a long-time champion of independent broadcasters, Preston Padden has penned an online op ed supporting Gigi Sohn as the fifth commissioner on the currently politically tied FCC.

Padden concedes he and Sohn have disagreed on any number of issues--he is a small government, free market advocate, she a progressive backer of government regulation in service of her view of the public interest. But he said she will be "an important and necessary voice for competition and disruptive new market entrants at the FCC."

Padden said that when he was president of the Association of Independent TV Stations, he said Sohn was a "tireless" ally in keeping those stations afloat amidst a desire by network TV stations and cable operators to "snuff them out."

Padden moved to News Corp. after that company bought the Metromedia independent stations and decided to use them as a launching pad for a fledgling fourth network. Padden, as president of network distribution of Fox Broadcasting, was again up against networks looking to crush the upstart. "Again, it was Gigi to whom I turned to help us fight our battles at the FCC," he said. "While no fan of Rupert (as he is unlikely to be a fan of Gigi’s), Gigi understood that the establishment of a fourth free-over-the-air television network was a longstanding FCC public interest goal."

And while one of the big knocks on Sohn among Republicans were some tweets about Fox News Channel on cable, Padden said that, on the broadcasting side, she was, again, a tireless advocate, this time "for Fox Broadcasting Company against entrenched industry forces."

Padden said Sohn was an ally again when Disney faced what he called the anti-competitive gatekeeper of a combined AOL-Time Warner.

While he concedes he and Sohn strongly disagree on some issues, she is "a great human being," and will be "an effective advocate for competition and new market entrants – all in the service of consumers," a voice that is needed whether from a conservative, a progressive or libertarian," he said. 

Sohn has drawn strong Republican pushback--including a hold threat. She has yet to get a confirmation vote in the Senate Commerce Committee. ■

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.