FCC v. Schreiber

Decision Date22 January 1962
Docket NumberNo. 1258-61.,1258-61.
Citation201 F. Supp. 421
PartiesFEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION, Petitioner, v. Taft B. SCHREIBER, and MCA, Inc., Respondents.
CourtU.S. District Court — Southern District of California

Francis C. Whelan, U. S. Atty., by Frederick M. Brosio, Jr., Asst. U. S. Atty., Los Angeles, Cal., for petitioner.

Beilenson, Meyer, Rosenfeld & Susman, by Allen E. Susman, and Jeffrey L. Nagin, Beverly Hills, Cal., for respondents.

YANKWICH, District Judge.

By the Complaint, the Petitioner, the Federal Communications Commission, hereinafter referred to as "the Commission", seeks the enforcement of subpoenas and orders pursuant to §§ 401(a), 401(b), 409(f) and 409(g) of the Communications Act of 1934, (47 U.S.C.A. §§ 401(a), 401(b), 409(f), 409(g)) in effect, commanding the respondents, MCA, Inc., a corporation organized and doing business under the laws of the State of Delaware, and Taft B. Schreiber, an individual, both with offices and place of business located at 9370 Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills, California, to be referred to as "the Respondents," to appear before the Commission at a time and place to be subsequently determined by it and to bring with them and to produce certain books, papers and documents as required by a subpoena duces tecum lawfully issued by the Commission on October 17, 1960 and duly served upon respondent Schreiber and the orders of the Commission released January 27, 1961, and February 3, 1961, also duly served upon respondents.

The power of the Commission to institute investigations of the type now before it, seeking to determine whether certain practices are being indulged in in programming television, has long been sustained. A succinct statement of the principle is contained in Stahlman v. Federal Communications Commission, 1941, 75 U.S.App.D.C. 176, 126 F.2d 124, 128:

"* * * the Commission may, without interference, seek through an investigation of its own making information properly applicable to the legislative standards set up in the Act. We should not assume that the investigation will be conducted for any other purpose or in disregard of the constitutional limits which govern such procedure." (p. 128)

The courts have applied the same reasoning to this and other agencies in sustaining pre-complaint investigatory subpoenas. (See, Federal Trade Commission v. National Biscuit Company, D.C. 1937, 18 F.Supp. 667, 671; Federal Communications Commission v. Cohn, D.C. 1957, 154 F.Supp. 899, 906; Hunt Foods & Industries, Inc., v. Federal Trade Commission, 9 Cir., 1960, 286 F.2d 803, 808-809, affirming the writer's opinion in Federal Trade Commission v. Hunt Foods and Industries, Inc., 1959, 178 F.Supp. 448.)

From the cases just cited, and from the Complaint and the supporting documents filed by the Commission, it is apparent that the inquiry sought here is clearly within the investigatory powers of the Commission. The objections of the respondents that their counsel was not allowed to cross-examine witnesses is without merit. In a noted decision, Hannah v. Larche, 1960, 363 U.S. 420, 80 S.Ct. 1502, 4 L.Ed.2d 1307, the present Chief Justice, in considering the scope of the investigatory powers of various administrative commissions, said this of the meaning of the right to counsel in proceedings before administrative agencies:

"A typical agency is the Federal Trade Commission. Its rules draw a clear distinction between adjudicative proceedings and investigative proceedings. 16 CFR, 1958 Supp., § 1.34. Although the latter are frequently initiated by complaints from undisclosed informants, id., §§ 1.11, 1.15, and although the Commission may use the information obtained during investigations to initiate adjudicative proceedings, id., § 1.42, nevertheless, persons summoned to appear before investigative proceedings are entitled only to a general notice of `the purpose and scope of the investigation,' id., § 1.33, and while they may have the advice of counsel, `counsel may not, as a matter of right, otherwise participate in the investigation.' Id., § 1.40. The reason for these rules is obvious. The Federal Trade Commission could not conduct an efficient investigation if persons being investigated were permitted to convert the investigation into a trial. We have found no authorities suggesting that the rules governing Federal Trade Commission investigations violate the Constitution, and this is understandable since any person investigated by the Federal Trade Commission will be accorded all the traditional judicial safeguards at a subsequent adjudicative proceeding, just as any person investigated by the Civil Rights Commission will have all of these safeguards, should some type of adjudicative proceeding subsequently be instituted." (363 U.S. p. 446, 80 S.Ct. p. 1517)1

The proceeding before the Commission is clearly investigatory. It is not an adjudicatory proceeding of the type governed by § 409 of Title 47. To be more specific: As alleged in the Complaint, the object of the investigation carried on by the Commission was

"to determine, principally, whether the television networks, Commission licensees, or others may be arbitrarily restricting or excluding the broadcast of otherwise meritorious programs or advertising material."

In its Order of February 27, 1959, the Commission determined that to answer the question in an adequate manner it was necessary to make a comprehensive fact-finding investigation into the daily operation of the industry in the creation and selection of programs and advertising for television exhibition. The subpoena issued and served on the respondents on October 17, 1960, before James D. Cunningham, Chief Hearing Examiner, ordered the respondents to appear and produce certain documents. These were listed in "Annex B", which is printed in the margin,2 and which required them to produce, at the time and place, the books, papers and documents therein described. In sum, "Annex B" of the Commission's subpoena seeks a list of all television programs in which respondent MCA, Inc. has acted as "packager",3 and which were exhibited over the three major television networks since September 1, 1958. These were reasonably relevant to the inquiry. (Mines and Metals Corp. v. Securities & Exchange Commission, 9 Cir., 1952, 200 F.2d 317, 321; Detweiler Bros. v. Walling, 9 Cir., 1946, 157 F.2d 841; United States v. Woerth, D.C.Iowa 1956, 130 F.Supp. 930, 937-939)

To use the language which the Supreme Court applied to the Federal Trade Commission,

"Its broad power of investigation and subpoena, prior to the filing of a complaint" (Automatic Canteen Co. of America v. Federal Trade Commission, 1953, 346 U.S. 61, 79, 73 S.Ct. 1017, 1027, 97 L.Ed. 1454)

is beyond challenge. The fact that the respondents were not licensees of the Commission did not prevent it from seeking information from them. As said in Federal Communications Commission v. Cohn, D.C.N.Y.1957, 154 F.Supp. 899, 906:

"In furtherance of its powers to investigate, the Commission has been granted full power of subpoena, 47 U.S.C.A. § 409(e). This power is, of course, not confined to those over whom it may exercise regulatory jurisdiction, but to any persons from whom it can obtain information and documents which are relevant and material to its inquiry. The argument of the respondents that they are exempted from the subpoena power of the Commission because the Commission has no regulatory power over them, would be wholly inconsistent with the broad powers of investigation with which the Commission is vested and would circumscribe such power so as to severely restrict its effectiveness. There is no doubt that administrative agencies vested with such powers may, by compulsory process, require the production of information and documents from third persons who are not within their regulatory jurisdiction if the information sought is necessary and relevant to their authorized
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3 cases
  • FCC v. Schreiber
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Ninth Circuit
    • May 4, 1964
    ...pursuant to 47 U.S.C. §§ 401(a), 401(b), 409(f), and 409(g). The learned trial Judge filed an opinion January 22, 1962, F. C. C. v. Schreiber, D.C., 201 F.Supp. 421, and on March 2, 1962, filed his Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and The Conclusions of Law and Order are printed in the ......
  • Federal Communications Commission v. Schreiber, 482
    • United States
    • U.S. Supreme Court
    • May 24, 1965
    ...could move the court for an order, 'should good cause exist therefor,' permitting such testimony and documents to be made public. 201 F.Supp. 421. On appeal, a divided Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed that portion of the District Court's order which pertains to the questions ......
  • Coto Orbeta v. US, Civ. No. 89-1682 (JAF).
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Puerto Rico
    • July 10, 1991

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