The Big Four broadcast networks have reportedly settled with Locast for a fraction of the $32 million a court awarded them, which could remove one of the objections to the nomination of Gigi Sohn to fill the vacant seat on the Federal Communications Commission.
Bloomberg Law was reporting that according to the settlement, Locast would only have to pay ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC $700,000 for illegally streaming their content. Those networks also agreed to absolve any individuals, which would include former Locast board member Sohn, of liability for payment.
Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) had expressed concerns that Sohn‘s connection to Locast and any potential financial liability would be an ongoing conflict of interest since she would be regulating the broadcasters that carry that network programming.
Also: NAB Raises Red Flag Over Gigi Sohn’s Locast Directorship
But Sohn has already promised to recuse herself from any matter dealing with Locast parent Sports Fan Coalition NY, Inc. unless an agency designee affirmatively decides that the government's interest in her participation outweighs concerns about impartiality, and authorizes her to do so.
Locast had to shutter after a court concluded its model of streaming TV station signals without permission or payment was not covered under a non-commercial carveout from copyright protections, a suit brought by the networks.
As head of Public Knowledge, Sohn was an advocate for fair-use carveouts from copyright laws. Locast cited a noncommercial carveout in saying it was legally streaming TV station signals without having to get permission or payment, though the court ultimately disagreed.
While the networks pushed back hard, some stations didn't mind the extra over-the-top exposure for their local ads, particularly as networks started to stream some of their high-value content directly to consumers via their move into their own OTT services.
As to when Sohn might get a shot at the commission seat, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), chair of the Senate Commerce Committee that must approve Sohn's nomination before it can go to the Senate floor, has signaled that by the end of this week she wants to firm up a date for a vote.
A Washington insider said the buzz was that a Sohn vote could come next week (Wednesday or Thursday, perhaps). A Cantwell spokesperson had no comment on that timetable.
But there still remains the specter of a hold from Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), who has pledged to block the nomination, period, over what he has said are multiple issues, including copyright. ■
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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.