Julie Hollar Politics

If You Watch TV or Use the Internet, You Want a Functional FCC

Right now, the agency is deadlocked — which is just peachy for the corporations it regulates. Here’s how to unblock it.
[Gerard Romans Camps / CC BY 2.0]

By Julie Hollar | OtherWords

Most Americans don’t think much about the Federal Communications Commission, or FCC. But if you watch TV, use the internet, or own a phone, it plays a major role in your life.

The FCC regulates the airwaves, including the corporations that own your local TV and radio stations. And it plays an important role in making sure the Internet is open, free, secure, and accessible to all — or not.

The FCC is currently deadlocked with four members. Without a fifth, the agency is largely nonfunctional —which is just peachy for the corporations it’s meant to regulate.

President Biden has nominated open media advocate Gigi Sohn to fill that post. She could break that deadlock and make the FCC work better for consumers. But the Senate has failed to confirm her.

Advocates suspect the corporate media lobby is trying to sink the nomination of the staunch consumer advocate.

Sohn’s stalled nomination has gotten remarkably little press — with the notable exception of the Wall Street Journal, which has run three editorials and an op-ed opposing her. The Journal calls Sohn a “media censor” who wants to “silence conservative voices.”

It might seem curious, then, that right-wing outlets like OAN and NewsMax have supported Sohn’s nomination — a fact the Journal waves away, insisting that Sohn “wants less political diversity on the airwaves.

But that’s a tough argument to make when some of the very outlets she supposedly wants to suppress have spoken out in her favor.

The reason Sohn has found right-wing backers — yet the Journal and its owner, billionaire Rupert Murdoch, oppose her — is because this isn’t really a right vs. left battle. It’s a big vs. small battle.

Sohn has worked for decades in communications policy advocating for an open and accessible Internet. She was a top aide at the FCC during the Obama administration, helping implement net neutrality rules that were later repealed under Trump.

Net neutrality ensures that broadband providers have to provide equal data speeds to all companies, blocking them from offering “fast lanes” for big corporations that can pay extra while throttling others. This unequal access would give unfair advantages to big corporations — like Murdoch’s sprawling empire, which also includes Fox News — and stifle competition from smaller outfits.

Perhaps even more concerning for TV network OAN — and NewsMax, which also has a TV channel — is media conglomerate control over the airwaves.

Sohn spoke out against Sinclair Broadcast Group‘s attempted merger with Tribune Media Company, which would have dramatically consolidated the local broadcast TV market until mounting public opposition stopped it.

According to the independent media advocacy group Free Press, the Journal isn’t the only media company working to block Sohn’s appointment.

Cable and internet giant Comcast, they report, recently hired lobbyists with close ties to Arizona and West Virginia to work on telecom policy. Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema and West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin are seen as key swing votes on Sohn’s nomination.

Consumers now pay more for the internet since net neutrality was repealed. In all likelihood, these big corporations want to stop Sohn from bringing it back.

“The industry serves to benefit from Gigi not moving forward and the FCC delaying its push for net neutrality and other government regulations,” telecom lobbyist John Feehery told the Washington Examiner. “This helps their bottom line in the next few months by delaying regulations, because the FCC would be gridlocked and slowed down on these issues,”

The FCC needs to fill its fifth seat to do its critical work regulating the country’s media infrastructure. Sohn is clearly qualified. The Senate needs to confirm her.

Julie Hollar

Julie Hollar

Julie Hollar is the senior analyst and managing editor for Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR.org). This op-ed was distributed by OtherWords.org.

6 comments

  1. This aptly illustrates the fatal flaw in “democratic” capitalist states like the US.

    Agencies such as the FCC see-saw back and forth between total regulatory promiscuity and tepid half-assed regulations that are easily evaded.

    Only a people’s state like China can actually design, plan and implement national operations that will make sense.

    https://www.cnbc.com/2021/02/04/china-says-it-now-has-nearly-1-billion-internet-users.html

    In China. capitalist enterprises operate in a political containment vessel: no K Street or Citizens United. Attempts to evade can have serious, occasionally fatal consequences.

    The result: China can do things like create a fast, convenient, economically sensible fast rail network for the nation.

    Here?

    Train to nowhere: can California’s high-speed rail project ever get back on track?
    https://www.yahoo.com/news/train-nowhere-california-high-speed-100004933.html

    Likem “our” politics, “our” infrastructure is a game between billionaires and major corporations, played through the hands of owned and operated politicians.

    1. @BabaYaga
      The issue you raise — how people in a nation-state should be governed — is a major conundrum. On one hand, most people have neither the interest nor the ability to make proper decisions about how society should be run. On the other hand, if there are no elections or other ways to hold politicians accountable, you end up with the most aggressive people — the rich & powerful — running things for their own benefit with no concern for anyone else. So sure, a dictatorship can “get things done,” but what it’s getting done might not be so great. China has done some really good things, like its one-child-family policy (albeit not for the right reasons), but its government is accountable to no one, always a recipe for disaster.

      As to the California high speed (CHSR) rail project, I was deeply involved in opposing this. The story goes like this:

      The stated original purpose of CHSR was to get people out of planes (and, secondarily, cars) by providing quick trips from northern to southern California and vice versa. Good idea so far, as travel by train consumes and burns a lot less fossil fuel than driving or flying. However, like everything else American, moneyed interests soon hijacked this project.

      In order to route this train out of the San Francisco Bay Area and onto relatively flat land for most of its journey, the train was supposed to go over Altamont Pass, where Interstate 580, a major wind farm, and other train tracks have already denuded this area ecologically. The plan was to have a spur route to & from San Francisco and San Jose, the latter being the southern tip of the Bay Area and the city with the most population here (the big city in Silicon Valley). However, the San Jose Chamber of Commerce (Chamber) started freaking out, saying that they wanted the train to run THROUGH San Jose, not dead end there in a spur route, because the businesses in San Jose would make much more money if the train ran through it as opposed to ending and starting there. The Chamber was able to get enough support on the board governing this project to change the train’s route. However, a train from San Jose to southern California could not go over Altamont Pass without a major detour in the wrong direction, so the Chamber proposed going over Pacheco Pass. Pacheco Pass is a relative wilderness that’s in very good ecological condition, and train tracks in that area would ruin it ecologically.

      As a false pretext for why the train should go over Pacheco Pass instead of Altamont Pass, the proponents of the Pacheco Pass route started making false claims that traversing San Francisco Bay would cause more harm than going over Pacheco Pass, and the governing board for this project (sorry, this was years ago and I can’t remember the name of the board) voted in favor of Pacheco Pass and the San Jose Chamber of Commerce. Some people sued over this route, and I did some work as co-counsel with the attorney who took the case (Stuart Flashman). The project has been effectively stopped for now, though like all ecological and environmental problems, victories are always temporary where something natural exists that humans can kill and/or destroy.

      So the problem with the CHSR project was not democracy; in fact, democracy allowed us to stop a very destructive project. The problem was money, a very common and evil force on this planet that destroys and kills everyone and everything in its path.

  2. The FCC, and all other agencies controlled by this Corporate Capitalist power are nothing more than ‘Captured Agencies’ of this Disguised Global Crony Capitalist Racist Propagandist Criminal Ecocidal ‘Child Killing’ and War-Starting EMPIRE — merely ‘posing’ as our American government.

    This EMPIRE is NOT a form of Government — even WIKI does not include or recognize EMPIRE as any form of Government, but rather as the polar opposite of government.

    CORPORATE
    CAPITALISM
    CREATED
    EMPIRE

    “Guns don’t kill people” — EMPIRE does.

  3. The FCC, and all other agencies controlled by this Corporate Capitalist power are nothing more than ‘Captured Agencies’ of this Disguised Global Crony Capitalist Racist Propagandist Criminal Ecocidal ‘Child Killing’ and War-Starting EMPIRE — merely ‘posing’ as our American government.

    This EMPIRE is NOT a form of Government — even WIKI does not include or recognize EMPIRE as any form of Government, but rather as the polar opposite of government.

    CORPORATE
    CAPITALISM
    CREATED
    EMPIRE

    “Guns don’t kill people” — EMPIRE does.

  4. US TV has long been described as designed for the 9 year old mind—a consciousness industry, that serves ruling class interests

  5. US TV has long been described as designed for the 9 year old mind—a consciousness industry, that serves ruling class interests…what can be more fascist and racist than Star Trek?

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