Fox News pushes misinformation about Biden's new FCC pick

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Federal Communications Commission nominee Gigi Sohn has called for increased media diversity.

In a segment airing on "Fox & Friends" on Wednesday, co-host Brian Kilmeade and Fox News contributor Joe Concha attacked Gigi Sohn, President Joe Biden's nominee to lead the Federal Communications Commission, inaccurately describing her past position as favoring censorship of the right-wing network and other conservative outlets.

Sohn, who was nominated by the Biden administration to serve as a commissioner for the FCC in October, has argued for more media diversity — the opposite of Fox's claims. In a press release announcing her nomination, the Biden administration cited Sohn's advocacy of policies like net neutrality, which advocates for the internet operating as a neutral platform for views, rather than favoring content from one particular source or another.

The Fox News criticisms of Sohn hinged on an editorial published by the Wall Street Journal on Monday. Both Fox and the Wall Street Journal are owned by Rupert Murdoch.

Concha alleged that Sohn "will turn the FCC into the CCP [Chinese Communist Party]" if she is confirmed by the Senate, pointing to an Oct. 2020 tweet in which Sohn described Fox News as "state-sponsored propaganda with few if any opposing viewpoints."

Concha claimed that Sohn "wants to pull the broadcast license of this network" for "having the audacity of having some viewpoints that criticize the party that she serves at the pleasure of, the Democratic Party?" Kilmeade said he was "very concerned" about Sohn's nomination.

But media researchers have shown that Fox News, from its inception, has emphasized conservative misinformation and talking points while mischaracterizing the stances and words of progressives and Democrats, a conclusion that has been backed by numerous studies. Roger Ailes, a former aide to Richard Nixon who led Fox News with Murdoch, originally conceived of the network as a Republican propaganda outlet, as outlined in a 1970 memo. The network has continued in this mold for more than 25 years.

And there's no evidence to prove that Sohn called for the network's license to be pulled. That Fox claim seems to stem from the Wall Street Journal's allegation that Sohn "suggested using the FCC's power over broadcast licenses to censor conservative outlets."

 

The WSJ cited a call by Sohn to probe the license of conservative broadcaster Sinclair. Sohn was referring to an ownership arrangement in which Sinclair may have been in violation of federal law.

Ajit Pai, who served as FCC chair under former President Donald Trump, came to a similar conclusion, and the FCC under his leadership opposed a merger between Sinclair and the Tribune network of television stations. Sinclair was later fined $48 million, a record, for its deceptive practices during the aborted merger.

Further, the FCC does not have the power to regulate Fox's content, because it is not transmitted over public airwaves, a claim fact-checked by USA Today.

Concha also made the claim that concerns about a conservative bias at Facebook were a "bunch of b.s.," saying, "I'm pretty sure that we've unpacked that and proven that to be false."

But studies have shown that Facebook's internal algorithms prefer right-wing content. A report from New York University released in February said that, based on its research, claims of anti-conservative bias by Facebook "is itself a form of disinformation: a falsehood with no reliable evidence to support it."

Paul Barrett, co-author of the report, noted, "In fact, it is often conservatives who gain the most in terms of engagement and online attention, thanks to the platforms' systems of algorithmic promotion of content."

Internal Facebook memos leaked in October showed that the employees inside the company raised the alarm over how the algorithm favored right-wing content.

Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) have also indicated they have concerns about Sohn, citing concerns she might be biased against Fox News.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.