Byron Allen pens open letter in support of FCC commissioner nominee Gigi Sohn

EXCLUSIVE: TheGrio's owner champions Sohn as someone who would "help protect our rights as American citizens."

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Media mogul Byron Allen, the owner of theGrio, has penned an open letter to the U.S. Senate in support of the confirmation of Gigi Sohn as commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). 

Byron Allen
Byron Allen attends the Hollywood Walk of Fame Star Ceremony for Byron Allen on October 20, 2021 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images)

Sohn’s Dec. 1 confirmation hearing was tinged with a bit of controversy as it elicited some pushback from conservative Senators over a tweet that she posted last year that was critical of Fox News.

“For all my concerns about #Facebook, I believe that Fox News has had the most negative impact on our democracy. It’s state-sponsored propaganda, with few if any opposing viewpoints. Where’s the hearing about that?” she wrote.

The tweet also caused The Wall Street Journal (which is owned by Fox’s parent company, News Corp) editorial page to publicly oppose her nomination.

However, in his open letter Allen said, “The FCC is charged with promoting diversity of ownership and viewpoints yet has fallen short of achieving a truly diverse media landscape. Gigi Sohn understands and is a champion against this inequity. “

Georgetown University Law Institute for Technology Law and Policy fellow Gigi Sohn testifies before the House Judiciary Committee’s Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law Subcommittee in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill March 12, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

“As someone who speaks out against injustice, racism, unfairness, and corruption wherever and whenever I see it, I value our American freedom of speech, and Gigi Sohn will help protect our rights as American citizens,” wrote Allen. “Whether fighting for an open Internet or for the free speech rights of conservatives with whom she disagrees, Gigi advocates for all people to speak and be heard. That is why multiple conservatives who disagree with her on a lot of issues publicly support Gigi’s confirmation to the FCC.”

If confirmed by the United States Senate, Sohn would be considered the 5th FCC commissioner of the five-member regulating panel.    

Sohn was an advisor to the FCC board when Mignon Clyburn, a former commissioner at the FCC during the Obama administration, was seated on the panel. Clyburn recalled that during the Obama Administration Sohn worked with the commission on making the cost of broadband equitable and affordable. Clyburn remembered Sohn also supported the reduction in price for inmate phone calls that in some cases created financial hardship.

Clyburn says, people have been “waiting a number of months for this moment” as there is a lot of need when it comes to “connecting communities.“ The FCC is one of the agencies working on the “nuts and bolts when it comes to the granular rule making for broadband that is highlighted in President Biden’s infrastructure plan.”

Mignon Clyburn
Mignon Clyburn Commissioner, Federal Communications Commission speaks at Common Sense Census: Media Use By Tweens and Teens panel discussion at the Kaiser Family Foundation at the Barbara Jordan Conference Center on November 4, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images for Common Sense Media)

Black Republican media owner Armstrong Williams said in a recent opinion piece, “that [Sohn’s] policy preferences would actively deter minority media ownership and depressed the investment in broadcasting needed to to elevate minority voices — and she should not be confirmed to the FCC.”

As Williams is denouncing the Biden nominee, the heads of the conservative media outlets, Newsmax and One America are supporting her nomination. 

Sohn is a 60-year-old lawyer who attended Boston University for her undergraduate degree and the University of Pennsylvania for law school. If confirmed, Sohn would  lso become the first openly LGBTQ commissioner in the history of the agency.

Clyburn added,”there is no time to waste on these confirmations.”    

In a statement provided to theGrio, the White House doubled down on its support of Sohn’s nomination.

President and CEO of Public Knowledge Gigi Sohn testifies during a hearing before the Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights Subcommittee of Senate Judiciary Committee June 21, 2012 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

“Gigi B. Sohn is a Distinguished Fellow at the Georgetown Law Institute for Technology Law & Policy and a Benton Senior Fellow and Public Advocate. Gigi is one of the nation’s leading public advocates for open, affordable, and democratic communications networks. For over thirty years, Gigi has worked to defend and preserve the fundamental competition and innovation policies that have made broadband Internet access more ubiquitous, competitive, affordable, open, and protective of user privacy. If she is confirmed, Gigi would be the first openly LGBTIQ+ Commissioner in the history of the FCC,” reads the statement.

“From 2013-2016, Gigi served as Counselor to Former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, and from 2001-2013 was Co-Founder and CEO of Public Knowledge, a leading communications and technology policy advocacy organization serving the interests of consumers. She was previously a Project Specialist in the Ford Foundation’s Media, Arts and Culture unit and Executive Director of the Media Access Project, a communications public interest law firm. Gigi holds a B.S. in Broadcasting and Film, Summa Cum Laude, from the Boston University College of Communication and a J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania Law School.”

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