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Red Lion Broadcasting Co. v. Federal Communications Commission

A Personal Attack On The Airwaves, The Fairness Doctrine, Regulation Of Content, Freedom Of Speech For Broadcasters And The People


Red Lion Broadcasting Company, et al.


Federal Communications Commission, et al.

Petitioner's Claim

That the Federal Communications Commission's Fairness Doctrine, which requires broadcasters to allow the subjects of personal attacks or political analyses equal time for rebuttal, violated their First Amendment right to freely determine the content of their programming.

Chief Lawyer for Petitioner

Roger Robb

Chief Lawyer for Respondent

Archibald Cox

Justices for the Court

Hugo Lafayette Black, William J. Brennan, Jr., John Marshall Harlan II, Thurgood Marshall, Potter Stewart, Earl Warren, Byron R. White (writing for the Court)

Justices Dissenting

None (William O. Douglas did not participate)


Washington, D.C.

Date of Decision

9 June 1969


Denied the petitioner's claim, upholding a court of appeals ruling that the Fairness Doctrine did not violate the First Amendment right of broadcasters to determine the content of their programming.


The ruling upheld the Fairness Doctrine of the Federal Communications Commission, and insured the legal Right of Reply over broadcast media. Because there is a finite number of broadcast frequencies, the Court ruled that licensed broadcasters are obliged to present a variety of views on all subjects covered in their programming.

Related Cases

  • CBS v. Democratic National Committee, 412 U.S. 97 (1973).
  • Miami Herald Publishing Company v. Tornillo, 418 U.S. 241 (1974).
  • CBS v. FCC, 453 U.S. 367 (1981).

Further Readings

  • Biskupic, Joan and Elder Witt, eds. Guide to the Supreme Court of the United States. Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly Inc., 1997.
  • Cook, Don Lloyd. "Earthquakes and Aftershocks." Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, Spring 1998, p. 116.
  • Hall, Kermit L., ed. Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1963 to 1972