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Red Lion Broadcasting Co. v. Federal Communications Commission

Regulation Of Content

WGCB objected to the FCC's ruling and in 1967 took the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The radio station maintained that, by forcing it to supply reply time to Clark, the FCC was regulating the content of its programming in violation of First Amendment protections of free speech. While the court of appeals considered the case, the FCC moved to clarify the Fairness Doctrine, particularly insofar as it applied to personal attacks and political editorials. As amended, the doctrine defined a personal attack as occurring "when, during the presentation of views on a controversial issue of public importance, an attack is made upon the honesty, character, integrity or like personal qualities of an identified person or group." The amended doctrine also prescribed a remedy for such attacks:

the licensee shall, within a reasonable time . . . transmit to the person or group attacked (1) notification of the date, time and identification of the broadcast; (2) a script or tape (or an accurate summary if a script or tape is not available) of the attack; and (3) an offer of reasonable opportunity to respond over the licensee's facilities.
Although the court of appeals upheld the FCC in the Red Lion case, the amended Fairness Doctrine was almost simultaneously ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in a parallel case, United States v. Radio Television News Directors Association (RTNDA). In light of these conflicting rulings the case moved to the U.S. Supreme Court, which heard arguments on 2 and 3 April 1969.

Additional topics

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