Gigi Sohn

The Federal Communications Commission’s next meeting is Jan. 27 and there’s some speculation that a fifth member could be seated by then. Senate Commerce Committee Chair Maria Cantwell (D-WA) says her committee plans to vote on several potential nominees next week, and while the list is not out, she hopes FCC nominee Gigi Sohn will be on it.

The tide for Sohn may be turning. Senator Jacky Rosen (D-NV) has now come out in support of her confirmation. “Before the holidays, Ms. Sohn and I had a productive one-on-one conversation in my office about her nomination to serve on the FCC. Given the commitments she has made to me addressing the concerns of stakeholders in Nevada, I will support Ms. Sohn's nomination in the Commerce Committee,” said Rosen in a statement. Insiders say Rosen was swayed in part by Sohn’s commitment to travel to Nevada to meet with the broadcasters in the state to hear their concerns, take feedback, and discuss their priorities. Sohn also reaffirmed her commitment to broadcast diversity, which Rosen has seen as a key issue for an increasingly diverse state like Nevada.

Rosen joins several other Senators who are backing Sohn, including John Tester (D-MT) and Gary Peters (D-MI) who previously were on the fence. Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) remains the last holdout on the Senate Commerce Committee. Sinema has not said one way or the other whether she will vote in favor of recommending Sohn’s confirmation. But reports say Sinema may have quietly signaled to Cantwell that she will vote to confirm Sohn. Sinema previously raised concerns about Sohn’s views on net neutrality.

Cantwell told Communications Daily that she believed the delay in Sohn’s vote last month was tied to a desire to have their questions answered, and not doubts about her ability to fill the role. “I’m impressed by the knowledge base that she has,” said Cantwell.

Because every Republican member of the Senate Commerce Committee is likely to vote against Sohn, every Democratic member is needed in order to get a 14-14 vote that would automatically send her nomination to the full Senate for confirmation.

Beyond Congress, Sohn has picked up some support in recent days. Three former heads of the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau this week urged lawmakers to vote in favor of seating her. And Consumer Technology Association President Gary Shapiro called Sohn “extraordinary qualified” and urged the Senate to quickly confirm her. “The issues facing the FCC today are too great to allow for any further delay in the nomination process,” he wrote in a blog post. Shapiro also said that because Sohn has a reputation for asking tough questions of industry leaders, that may mean that she will take positions that conflict with CTA priorities. “But that’s a price we should all be willing to accept for a commissioner with deep integrity, knowledge and skill,” he said.

The National Association of Broadcasters has said that it is unsettled about Sohn’s pick based on her work as a director at Locast. The streaming service distributed local TV station signals online until a judge earlier this year ordered it be shut down for violating copyright law. NAB said it had “serious concerns” that the ethics agreement submitted by Sohn would not do enough to separate her from what it sees as a “clear and troubling conflict.”

But when she testified before the Senate committee last month, Sohn explained she viewed Locast as a way to help more Americans gain access to local broadcasting and she felt it would have been good for local TV stations too. “I revere local broadcasting and if I’m confirmed I would like to sit down with them and explain what I did and get from them ideas how I can help local broadcasting be more competitive, more resilient, and more diverse,” she said.

Sohn does have the support of conservative media outlets such as One America and Newsmax who credit her efforts with helping them gain access to cable systems. Sohn also has the backing of Byron Allen, who heads the nation’s largest minority-owned broadcast company.