Federal Communications Commission v. Sanders Bros Radio Station, No. 499

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtROBERTS
Citation309 U.S. 470,84 L.Ed. 869,60 S.Ct. 693,84 L.Ed. 1037,309 U.S. 642
Docket NumberNo. 499
Decision Date25 March 1940
PartiesFEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION v. SANDERS BROS. RADIO STATION

309 U.S. 470
60 S.Ct. 693
309 U.S. 642
84 L.Ed. 869
84 L.Ed. 1037
FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION

v.

SANDERS BROS. RADIO STATION.

No. 499.
Argued Feb. 9, 1940.
Decided March 25, 1940.

As Amended on Denial of Rehearing April 22, 1940.

Messrs. Robert H. Jackson, Atty. Gen., and William J. Dempsey, of Washington, D.C., for petitioner.

Page 471

Mr. Louis G. Caldwell, of Washington, D.C., for respondent.

Mr. Justice ROBERTS delivered the opinion of the Court.

We took this case to resolve important issues of substance and procedure arising under the Communications Act of 1934, as amended.1

January 20, 1936, the Telegraph Herald, a newspaper published in Dubuque, Iowa, filed with the petitioner an application for a construction permit to erect a broadcasting station in that city. May 14, 1936, the respondent, who had for some years held a broadcasting license for, and had operated, Station WKBB at East Dubuque, Illinois, directly across the Mississippi River from Dubuque, Iowa, applied for a permit to move its transmitter and studios to the last named city and to install its station there. August 18, 1936, respondent asked leave to intervene in the Telegraph Herald proceeding, alleging in its petition, inter alia, that there was an insufficiency of advertising revenue to support an additional station in Dubuque and insufficient talent to furnish programs for an additional station; that adequate service was being rendered to the community by Station WKBB and there was no need for any additional radio outlet in Dubuque and that the granting of the Telegraph Herald application would not serve the public interest, convenience, and necessity. Intervention was permitted and both applications were set for consolidated hearing.

The respondent and the Telegraph Herald offered evidence in support of their respective applications. The respondent's proof showed that its station had operated

Page 472

at a loss; that the area proposed to be served by the Telegraph Herald was substantially the same as that served by the respondent and that, of the advertisers relied on to support the Telegraph Herald station, more than half had used the respondent's station for advertising.

An examiner reported that the application of the Telegraph Herald should be denied and that of the respondent granted. On exceptions of the Telegraph Herald, and after oral argument, the broadcasting division of petitioner made an order granting both applications, reciting that 'public interest, convenience, and necessity would be served' by such action. The division promulgated a statement of the facts and of the grounds of decision, reciting that both applicants were legally, technically, and financially qualified to undertake the proposed construction and operation; that there was need in Dubuque and the surrounding territory for the services of both stations, and that no question of electrical interference between the two stations was involved. A rehearing was denied and respondent appealed to the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. That court entertained the appeal and held that one of the issues which the Commission should have tried was that of alleged economic injury to the respondent's station by the establishment of an additional station and that the Commission had erred in failing to make findings on that issue. It decided that, in the absence of such findings, the Commission's action in granting the Telegraph Herald permit must be set aside as arbitrary and capricious.2

The petitioner's contentions are that under the Communications Act economic injury to a competitor is not a ground for refusing a broadcasting license and that, since this is so, the respondent was not a person aggrieved or whose interests were adversely affected, by the Com-

Page 473

mission's action, within the meaning of Section 402(b) of the Act, 47 U.S.C.A. § 402(b), which authorizes appeals from the Commission's orders.

The respondent asserts that the petitioner in argument below contended itself with the contention that the respondent had failed to produce evidence requiring a finding of probable economic injury to it. It is consequently insisted that the petitioner is not in a position here to defend its failure to make such findings on the ground that it is not required by the Act to consider any such issue. By its petition for rehearing in the court below, the Commission made clear its position as now advanced. The decision of the court below, and the challenge made in petition for rehearing and here by the Commission, raise a fundamental question as to the function and powers of the Commission and we think that, on the record, it is open here.

First. We hold that resulting economic injury to a rival station is not in and of itself, and apart from considerations of public convenience, interest, or necessity, an element the petitioner must weigh and as to which it must make findings in passing on an application for a broadcasting license.

Section 307(a) of the Communications Act, 47 U.S.C.A. § 307(a), directs that 'the Commission, if public convenience, interest, or necessity will be served thereby, subject to the limitations of this Act (chapter), shall grant to any applicant therefor a station license provided for by this Act (chapter).' This...

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358 practice notes
  • Barrows v. Jackson, No. 517
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 15, 1953
    ...United States v. Jeffers, 342 U.S. 48, 52, 72 S.Ct. 93, 95, 96 L.Ed. 59; Federal Communications Comm. v. Sanders Brothers Radio Station, 309 U.S. 470, 642, 60 S.Ct. 693, 84 L.Ed. 869, 1037; Wuchter v. Pizzutti, supra. There is such a close relationship between the restrictive covenant here ......
  • Office of Communication of United Church of Christ v. F.C.C., Nos. 81-1032
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • May 10, 1983
    ...render the best practicable service to the community reached by his broadcasts." Federal Communications Comm'n v. Sanders Radio Station, 309 U.S. 470, 475, 60 S.Ct. 693, 697, 84 L.Ed. 869. The Commission's licensing function cannot be discharged, therefore, merely by finding that there are ......
  • Transcontinental Bus System, Inc. v. CAB, No. 22791
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • July 24, 1967
    ...modified that rule insofar as review of administrative agency decisions is concerned. Thus, in FCC v. Sanders Bros. Radio Station, 309 U.S. 470, 60 S.Ct. 693, 84 L.Ed. 869 (1940) the Court held that a competitor who was subject to adverse economic consequences as a result of an agency decis......
  • Brandywine-Main Line Radio, Inc. v. FCC, No. 71-1181.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • September 25, 1972
    ...307(a), (d) (1970). 210 145 U.S.App.D.C. 32, 40 fn. 23, 447 F.2d 1201, 1200 fn. 23 (1971), quoting F.C.C. v. Sanders Bros. Radio Station, 309 U.S. 470, 475 211 143 U.S.App.D.C. 383, 444 F.2d 841 (1970). 212 Id., 143 U.S.App.D.C. at 396, 444 F.2d at 854. 213 Id., 143 U.S.App.D.C. at 402, 444......
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357 cases
  • Barrows v. Jackson, No. 517
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 15, 1953
    ...United States v. Jeffers, 342 U.S. 48, 52, 72 S.Ct. 93, 95, 96 L.Ed. 59; Federal Communications Comm. v. Sanders Brothers Radio Station, 309 U.S. 470, 642, 60 S.Ct. 693, 84 L.Ed. 869, 1037; Wuchter v. Pizzutti, supra. There is such a close relationship between the restrictive covenant here ......
  • Office of Communication of United Church of Christ v. F.C.C., Nos. 81-1032
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • May 10, 1983
    ...render the best practicable service to the community reached by his broadcasts." Federal Communications Comm'n v. Sanders Radio Station, 309 U.S. 470, 475, 60 S.Ct. 693, 697, 84 L.Ed. 869. The Commission's licensing function cannot be discharged, therefore, merely by finding that there are ......
  • Transcontinental Bus System, Inc. v. CAB, No. 22791
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • July 24, 1967
    ...modified that rule insofar as review of administrative agency decisions is concerned. Thus, in FCC v. Sanders Bros. Radio Station, 309 U.S. 470, 60 S.Ct. 693, 84 L.Ed. 869 (1940) the Court held that a competitor who was subject to adverse economic consequences as a result of an agency decis......
  • Brandywine-Main Line Radio, Inc. v. FCC, No. 71-1181.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • September 25, 1972
    ...307(a), (d) (1970). 210 145 U.S.App.D.C. 32, 40 fn. 23, 447 F.2d 1201, 1200 fn. 23 (1971), quoting F.C.C. v. Sanders Bros. Radio Station, 309 U.S. 470, 475 211 143 U.S.App.D.C. 383, 444 F.2d 841 (1970). 212 Id., 143 U.S.App.D.C. at 396, 444 F.2d at 854. 213 Id., 143 U.S.App.D.C. at 402, 444......
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1 books & journal articles
  • Injury-in-fact and the Establishment Clause
    • United States
    • The Georgetown Journal of Law & Public Policy Nbr. 18-2, July 2020
    • July 1, 2020
    ...(quoting Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 580 (1992) (Kennedy, J., concurring)). 64. FCC v. Sanders Bros. Radio Station, 309 U.S. 470, 477 (1940). 65. Id. at 477. 2020] INJURY-IN-FACT AND THE ESTABLISHMENT CAUSE 635 interests are adversely affected by any decision of the Commis......

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