Yesterday’s big news across the broadcast press was that Gigi Sohn, who had for well over a year been the nominee of the Biden administration to fill the open seat at the FCC, withdrew her name from consideration. This may have been in reaction to circulated stories that there were several Democratic Senators who still were not committed to vote for her nomination without whose support she could not have been confirmed. Until the Biden administration can make another nomination and have that nominee go through the confirmation process in the Senate, the FCC will continue to have two Democratic Commissioners and two Republican ones, potentially stalling action on some rulemaking matters where there is a partisan split on the pending issue. We wrote in January in our look at the issues pending before the FCC about some of the issues that the FCC could face in 2023. In light of the seeming extension of the partisan divide on the FCC, we thought that we would again highlight some of the issues likely to be affected by the current state of the Commission.
But it is first worth noting that, merely because there is a partisan split among the Commissioners, this does not mean that nothing of significance will happen at the FCC. As we wrote yesterday, the TEGNA merger was designated for hearing, potentially leading to its demise. This was done not by an action of the Commissioners, but instead by its Media Bureau. Interpretations of FCC authority in specific cases by the Media Bureau, the Enforcement Bureau or other lower-level bureaus and offices within the Commission can be just as impactful on any specific company as are the big policy decisions made by the Commissioners themselves. Just as the TEGNA designation could have significant ramifications for broadcast dealmaking if its conclusions are taken to their logical ends, Bureau-level decisions can set day-to-day policy on many issues if the Commission itself cannot make broader decisions through their rulemaking process.Continue Reading Gigi Sohn Withdraws from Consideration for Open Seat as FCC Commissioner – What that Means for Broadcast Regulation