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United States v. Storer Broad. Co. - 351 U.S. 192, 76 S. Ct. 763 (1956)

Rule:

47 U.S.C.S. §§ 154(i), 303(r) grant to the Federal Communications Commission general rulemaking power that is not inconsistent with the Communications Act of 1934, 47 U.S.C.S. § 301 et seq., or the law.

Facts:

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC") adopted new rules ("Rules") for the purpose of avoiding overconcentration of broadcasting facilities. The Rules provided, inter alia, that licenses for television broadcasting stations would not be granted if the applicant, directly or indirectly, had an interest in more than five other stations on grounds that such a license would amount to a concentration of control contrary to the public interest, convenience or necessity. Plaintiff Storer Broadcasting Company ("Storer"), whose interest in broadcasting stations had reached the five-station limit, filed an application with the FCC for a new television station; the application was denied pursuant to the Rules. Storer thereafter filed a lawsuit in a federal court of appeals against defendants United States ("Government") and others challenging the validity of the Rules. The court of appeals found in favor of Storer and directed the FCC to eliminate the five-station limit from the Rules. The court agreed with Storer's argument that the Federal Communications Act, 47 U.S.C.S. § 309(b), required a full and fair hearing to determine whether a grant of a broadcasting license would be in the public interest, even as to an applicant already controlling the number of stations specified in the Rules. The Government was granted a writ of certiorari.

Issue:

Did 47 U.S.C.S. § 309(b) bar rules that declared a present intent to limit the number of stations consistent with a permissible "concentration of control?"

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

The Supreme Court of the United States reversed the court of appeals' and remanded the matter to that court for consideration of Storer's other challenges to the Rules. The Court agreed with Storer that a "full hearing" under § 309(b) meant that every party had the right to present his case or defense by oral or documentary evidence, to submit rebuttal evidence, and to conduct cross-examination for a full and true disclosure of the facts. However, the requirement did not withdraw the FCC's rulemaking authority necessary for the orderly conduct of its business. The challenged Rules contained limitations against licensing not specifically authorized by statute, but that was not the limit of the Commission's rulemaking authority. 47 U.S.C.S. §§ 154(i), 303(r) granted general rulemaking power to the FCC. Thus, 47 U.S.C.S. § 309(b) did not bar rules that declared a present intent to limit the number of stations consistent with a permissible "concentration of control."

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