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Locast on the hook for just $700,000 – reportLocast on the hook for just $700,000 – report

Terms of the secret financial settlement, which reportedly clears individuals from liability in Locast's case with US broadcasters, might also help clear the way for Gigi Sohn's nomination to the FCC.

Jeff Baumgartner

January 26, 2022

3 Min Read
Locast on the hook for just $700,000 – report

Locast, the defunct provider of free streams of local TV broadcast signals, will reportedly have to pay a tiny fraction of a $32 million settlement with ABC, CBS, Fox and NBCU handed down last fall.

Since then, those broadcasters have agreed to settle for just $700,000 in cash and liquidation of used computer servers, according to a copy of the nonpublic agreement obtained by Bloomberg Law.

Figure 1: Locast suspended operations last fall following a court ruling that favored the nation's major broadcasters. Click here for a larger version of this image. (Source: Locast.org circa September 2021) Locast suspended operations last fall following a court ruling that favored the nation's major broadcasters.
Click here for a larger version of this image.
(Source: Locast.org circa September 2021)

A court slapped Locast with a permanent injunction last September that followed an earlier ruling that Locast's local TV streaming service was not exempt from copyright rules. Locast, a service that launched in 2018, had accumulated about 3 million registered users before it all fell apart. Locast, which did receive a $500,000 donation from AT&T in 2019, was viewed by some as a service that could give pay-TV operators some much-needed leverage in retransmission negotiations with US broadcasters.

A ray of light for Sohn?

Back to the here and now, Bloomberg Law argues that the confidential settlement could undercut some of the opposition to the proposed nomination of Gigi Sohn to the FCC.

Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) was opposed because Sohn was once connected to Locast (she was previously on the board of the NY Sports Fan Coalition, a nonprofit that ran Locast). The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) has also expressed "serious concerns" with Sohn's past involvement with Locast. The NAB is confident that the situation can be resolved, but did argue that the ethics agreement Sohn submitted to the Senate did not "adequately address the inherent conflict presented by her recent leadership position at Locast and her potential role as an FCC commissioner."

Bloomberg Law believes Sohn's chances of getting through the FCC nomination meatgrinder are improved by the settlement because there's a provision stating that the broadcasters have released individuals from liability. The broadcasters have also agreed to file a satisfaction of judgment by January 27 if all the terms are met, the report adds.

"Broadcasters... forever and irrevocably release and discharge the additional enjoined parties from... liabilities of every kind and nature, related to the claims, counterclaims, or subject matter of the Locast action," the settlement states, according to Bloomberg Law.

Earlier this month, Wicker asked committee chair Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) to hold a second hearing that would focus on ethics questions after reviewing the terms of the confidential settlement between Locast and the broadcasters. The White House and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer appear disinclined to grant Wicker's request, says The Washington Times.

Sohn's original confirmation hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee was held December 1, 2021. Alongside the questions tied to a prior association with Locast, Sohn was pressed on whether she would support the FCC regulating broadband rates, and repeatedly said no. But Sohn did acknowledge that she's been an advocate for network neutrality for 20 years and believes the FCC, if necessary, will have to go the Title II route if Congress fails to act on rules that have changed with each recent Presidential administration.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

About the Author(s)

Jeff Baumgartner

Senior Editor, Light Reading, Light Reading

Jeff Baumgartner is a Senior Editor for Light Reading and is responsible for the day-to-day news coverage and analysis of the cable and video sectors. Follow him on X and LinkedIn.

Baumgartner also served as Site Editor for Light Reading Cable from 2007-2013. In between his two stints at Light Reading, he led tech coverage for Multichannel News and was a regular contributor to Broadcasting + Cable. Baumgartner was named to the 2018 class of the Cable TV Pioneers.

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