Law School Case Brief
Nat'l Broad. Co. v. United States - 319 U.S. 190, 63 S. Ct. 997 (1943)
The criterion governing the exercise of the Federal Communications Commission's licensing power is the public interest, convenience, or necessity. In addition, the Communication Act § 307(b) directs the Federal Communications Commission that, in considering applications for licenses and modifications and renewals thereof, when and insofar as there is demand for the same, such distribution of licenses, frequencies, hours of operation, and of power among the several states and communities shall be made as to provide a fair, efficient, and equitable distribution of radio service to each of the same.
These suits were brought on October 30, 1941, to enjoin the enforcement of the Chain Broadcasting Regulations promulgated by the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) on May 2, 1941, and amended on October 11, 1941. The Court held last Term in Columbia System v. United States, 316 U.S. 407, and National Broadcasting Co. v. United States, 316 U.S. 447, that the suits could be maintained under § 402 (a) of the Communications Act of 1934, 48 Stat. 1093, § 402 (a) and that the decrees of the District Court dismissing the suits for want of jurisdiction should therefore be reversed. On remand the District Court granted the Government's motions for summary judgment and dismissed the suits on the merits. 47 F.Supp. 940.
Did the district court err in dismissing National Broadcasting Co.’s actions to enjoin the FCC from regulating chain broadcasting practices?
The United States Supreme Court affirmed the dismissal of National Broadcasting Co.’s actions to enjoin the enforcement of the Chain Broadcasting Regulations promulgated by FCC. The Communications Act of 1934 authorized the FCC to promulgate regulations that encouraged the larger and more effective use of radio in the public interest, convenience, or necessity. Although this delegation of legislative authority was expansive, it was not unconstitutionally vague and indefinite because the statutory public interest standard guided the FCC's determinations. The FCC was allowed to issue special regulations designed to correct the abuses disclosed by its investigation of radio stations engaged in network broadcasting. Although it lacked the technical competence and the legal authority to determine whether the public interest was indeed furthered by the regulations, the Court found that the administrative action was based upon findings supported by evidence and did not constitute an abuse of discretion. Further, denial of a station license on the grounds of public interest, where valid under the statute, was not a denial of free speech.
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