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.radio applicant slams GAC “conflict of interest”

Kevin Murphy, July 11, 2012, 14:52:13 (UTC), Domain Policy

BRS Media, one of the four applicants for the .radio generic top-level domain, claims ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee has a “direct conflict of interest” over the gTLD.
As DI reported two weeks ago, the European Broadcasting Union, another .radio applicant (the others are Afilias and Donuts), joined the GAC during ICANN’s public meeting in Prague.
While the EBU only has Observer status, and may not vote, it’s still able to participate in discussions. Whether these include discussions about GAC objections to new gTLDs is unclear.
BRS Media, which already runs the radio-themed .fm and .am ccTLDs, is not taking any chances, however. In a letter to GAC chair Heather Dryden, company CEO George Bundy wrote (pdf):

We believe these activities to be a direct Conflict of Interest, by the European Broadcasting Union within the New TLD Application process.

Optimistically, to say the least, BRS requests that the EBU “recuse itself from the New TLD process by withdrawing its applications immediately”.
While I can’t see that happening, it seems to me that the GAC does have to formally address the conflicts issue if it wants to avoid looking like a bunch of hypocrites.
The GAC does not appear to have a formal conflicts of interest policy, even though it pushed hard for similar provisions in the ICANN board.
Now that it has its hard-fought veto rights over new gTLD applications, some sort of safeguards seem appropriate.

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Comments (2)

  1. Consider this... says:

    Aren’t there board members at ICANN with similar conflicts? That poses a bigger problem.
    Will they adversely influence the supposedly neutral review of rival applications? If auctions become necessary will they inspect rival bids or look at financial projections in applications prior to formulating their own strategy?
    If board members have vested interests in gTLDs they should not be involved in the decision making or have access to applications. Already, it is troubling that this was allowed to happen. Are there gTLD applications that are in now based entirely on insider knowledge?
    It is borderline ethical and raises questions about the integrity of the process. This should be viewed with the same disdain as corporate insider trading.
    From your post, Afilias is involved in .radio. Aren’t they on ICANN’s board in some capacity as well?

    • Kevin Murphy says:

      The ICANN board has conflict of interest rules which have become quite strict over the last seven or eight months.
      Nowadays, the New gTLD Program Committee, which is made up of only non-conflicted directors, handles all the new gTLD business.
      So you’re right, but the board already takes conflicts into account. If the GAC has conflict rules, they’re not published.

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