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Red Lion Broadcasting Co. v. Federal Communications Commission

Freedom Of Speech For Broadcasters And The People

In considering the case, the Supreme Court reviewed the history and purpose of the FCC. By a vote of 8-0, the Court upheld the decision of the Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia, and overruled the decision reached in RTNDA. Writing for the majority, Justice White noted that part of the function of the FCC is to maintain a diversity of views on the broadcast airwaves as a public trust. This function is made necessary by the fact that the limited number of frequencies available makes it impossible for each individual to voice their opinions on the air. As such, FCC licensed broadcasting stations must function, as much as possible, as conduits for public dissemination of the views of those unable to obtain broadcasting licenses. "A license permits broadcasting, but the licensee has no constitutional right to be the one who holds the license or to monopolize a radio frequency to the exclusion of his fellow citizens." Furthermore, the Court interpreted the First Amendment as applying more to the duty of broadcasters to represent the views of those unable to broadcast than to the right of broadcasters to determine their own programming. "There is nothing in the First Amendment which prevents the Government from requiring a licensee to share his frequency with others and to conduct himself as a proxy or fiduciary with obligations to present those views and voices which are representative of his community and which would otherwise, by necessity, be barred from the airwaves."

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