Federal Communications Commission v. Schreiber, No. 482

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtWARREN
Citation14 L.Ed.2d 383,85 S.Ct. 1459,381 U.S. 279
PartiesFEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION, Petitioner, v. Taft B. SCHREIBER et al
Docket NumberNo. 482
Decision Date24 May 1965

381 U.S. 279
85 S.Ct. 1459
14 L.Ed.2d 383
FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION, Petitioner,

v.

Taft B. SCHREIBER et al.

No. 482.
Argued April 27, 1965.
Decided May 24, 1965.

[Syllabus from pages 279-280 intentionally omitted]

Page 280

John W. Douglas, Washington, D.C., for petitioner.

Allen E. Susman, Beverly Hills, Cal., for respondents.

Mr. Chief Justice WARREN delivered the opinion of the Court.

At issue in this case are the extent of the Federal Communications Commission's authority to promulgate procedural standards for determining whether testimony

Page 281

taken and documents produced during an investigatory proceeding should be accorded confidential treatment, and the scope of judicial review of determinations made pursuant to such standards.

This case had its origin in a subpoena and various orders issued during the course of an investigatory proceeding conducted by the Federal Communications Commission pursuant to § 403 of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, 48 Stat. 1094, 47 U.S.C. § 403 (1958 ed.).1 The proceeding, financed by specific congressional appropriation,2 was initiated on February 26, 1959, and had as its objective the gathering of

'comprehensive information concerning the respective roles played by the networks, advertisers, agencies, talent, film producers and distributors, and other major elements in the television industry.'3

Page 282

As an initial step in the investigation, the Commission ordered that an

'inquiry be made to determine the policies and practices pursued by the networks and others in the acquisition, ownership, production, distribution, selection, sale and licensing of programs for television exhibition, and the reasons and necessity in the public interest for said policies and practices * * *.'4

The Commission authorized its chief hearing examiner to conduct the investigation. He was empowered, inter alia, to subpoena witnesses, compel their attendance,

Page 283

and require the production of any records or documents deemed relevant to the inquiry.5 The Commission ordered that

'said investigatory proceeding shall be a public proceeding except that the said presiding officer may order non-public sessions of the said investigatory proceeding where and to the extent that the public interest, the proper dispatch of the business of said proceeding, or the ends of justice will be served thereby.'6

In October 1960, public sessions were held in Los Angeles, California, at which time evidence was received concerning the functions, policies and practices of television companies, talent agencies and representatives, program 'packagers,'7 sales representatives, and others. On October 17, 1960, the Presiding Officer issued a subpoena duces tecum to respondent Schreiber, a Vice President of respondent Music Corporation of America, Inc. (MCA)—one of the largest packagers and producers of network television programs,8 directing him to appear at

Page 284

the hearing and to produce certain documents described in the annexes to the subpoena. Respondent Schreiber appeared and produced the material specified in Annex A.9 He refused, however, to submit without qualification the material called for in Annex B,10 which included a list of the programs packaged by MCA. Respondent Schreiber stated that he would produce the subpoenaed materials only 'if the Commission will take this information and assure us that it will be held in confidence, will not be published, and will not be made available to other people, other than those on the Commission, and that serve the Commission.' As grounds for confidential treatment, he asserted that the information sought might disclose trade secrets and confidential data, and that the information was outside the scope of the hearing. He

Page 285

also objected generally to the procedures governing the hearing on the ground that they would require 'public disclosure of trade secrets and confidential data of my company which might be of aid to its many competitors in this highly competitive television industry.' The Presiding Officer found 'no doubt' as to the relevance of the material and rejected, as 'without merit,' the claim that the information should be received in confidence.

Respondents then petitioned the Commission for review. On January 25, 1961, the Commission affirmed the Presiding Officer and ordered respondents to appear, testify and produce the material subpoenaed at a reconvened hearing. In its opinion the Commission stressed the importance of publicizing the information gathered during the course of the investigation11 and reaffirmed its resolve to permit in camera sessions only in extraordinary situations:

'(W)e determined that public proceedings should be the rule herein, and that non-public procedures should be used only in those extraordinary instances where disclosure would irreparably damage private, competitive interests and where such interests could be found by the Presiding Officer to outweigh the paramount interest of the public and the Commission in full public disclosure.'

The Commission noted that the Presiding Officer and Commission counsel had made 'every effort to avoid public disclosure of detailed internal financial information or detailed contractual arrangements which might in fact irreparably harm private interests without sufficient compensating benefit to the public,' and found that they had not departed from this standard in rejecting respondents' claim of likely competitive harm which, the Commission held, was, 'totally unsupported by their pleadings and

Page 286

contrary to the record.' Accordingly, the Commission ordered respondents 'to testify * * * regarding all matters deemed relevant by said Presiding Officer,' and to produce the information required by the subpoena and 'such other information and data as may be deemed relevant and ordered or directed to be produced by the said Presiding Officer.' On remand, a broader claim for confidentiality was made by respondents. They requested that all testimony and documentary evidence to be elicited from them be received in nonpublic sessions, and disclosed only if a court, in subsequent litigation, should authorize its public disclosure. The contention was rejected by the Presiding Officer, but respondent Schreiber persisted in his refusal to comply with subpoena and the Commission's orders.12

The Commission thereupon petitioned the United States District Court for the Southern District of California for the enforcement of its subpoena and orders. The District Court found that the investigation was statutorily authorized, that the information requested in Annex B was relevant to the inquiry, and that respondents had disobeyed valid orders and a valid subpoena. 13 Accordingly, the District Court ordered respondents to appear at a reconvened hearing and to comply with the Commission's subpoena and orders. However, the court, in order to protect 'respondents' rights and to preclude disclosure of trade secrets of which competitors might

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take advantage,' ordered that all testimony given and documents produced by respondents be received and held in confidence.14 The court's order further provided that, after the investigation of respondents had been completed, the Commission 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 now before this Court.15

Page 288

The Court of Appeals held that the District Court had not abused its discretion in conditioning its order to require confidential treatment of the information sought. 329 F.2d 517. In dissent, Judge Browning stated that the Commission's procedural rule, requiring public hearings unless in camera proceedings could be justified by those from whom the information was sought, was well within the Commission's power. It was Judge Browning's view that the District Court could require confidential treatment only if the Commission's application of its procedural rule and consequent refusal to accord confidential treatment were found to be arbitrary or an abuse of the Commission's discretion. Id., at 528 534. Because this case presents important questions concerning the respective roles to be performed by federal courts and the Federal Communications Commission in the administration of the Communications Act of 1934, we granted certiorari. 379 U.S. 927, 85 S.Ct. 325, 13 L.Ed.2d 340.

We hold that the Commission's rule—requiring public disclosure except where the proponents of a request for confidential treatment have demonstrated that the public interest, proper dispatch of business, or the ends of justice would be served by nonpublic sessions—was well within the Commission's statutory authority. We further find that the Commission did not abuse its discretion in applying this rule. Accordingly, we modify the decision below insofar as it affirms the District Court's imposition of conditions upon the enforcement of the subpoena and orders issued by the Commission.

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I.

Section 4(j) of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, 48 Stat. 1068, 47 U.S.C. § 154(j) (1958 ed.), empowers the Federal Communications Commission to 'conduct its proceedings in such manner as will best conduce to the proper dispatch of business and to the ends of justice.' This Court has interpreted that provision as 'explicitly and by implication' delegating to the Commission power to resolve 'subordinate questions of procedure * * * (such as) the scope of the inquiry, whether applications should be heard contemporaneously or successively, whether parties should be allowed to intervene in one another's proceedings, and similar questions.' Federal Communications Comm'n v. Potsville Broadcasting Co., 309 U.S. 134, 138, 60 S.Ct....

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220 practice notes
  • Associated Press v. FCC, No. 23833
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • July 12, 1971
    ...134, 138, 60 S.Ct. 437, 84 L.Ed. 656 (1940); FCC v. WJR, 337 U.S. 265, 282-283, 69 S.Ct. 1097, 93 L.Ed. 1353 (1949); FCC v. Schreiber, 381 U.S. 279, 289, 85 S.Ct. 1459, 14 L.Ed.2d 383 (1965); Buckeye Cablevision, Inc. v. FCC, 128 U.S.App. D.C. 262, 269, 387 F.2d 220, 227 (1967). This observ......
  • Director, Office of Workers' Compensation Programs, U.S. Dept. of Labor v. Peabody Coal Co., Nos. 76-1577 and 76-1648
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • April 19, 1977
    ...v. Family Publications Service, Inc., 411 U.S. 356, 93 S.Ct. 1652, 36 L.Ed.2d 318 (1973); Federal Communications Commission v. Schreiber, 381 U.S. 279, 85 S.Ct. 1459, 14 L.Ed.2d 383 (1965); Gemsco, Incorporated v. Walling, Administrator of the Wage and Hour Division, U.S. Department of Labo......
  • Strang v. Marsh, Civ. A. No. 83-0409 P.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Rhode Island
    • February 21, 1985
    ...inquiry capable of permitting them to discharge their multitudinous duties."'" Id. at 543, 98 S.Ct. at 1211, quoting F.C.C. v. Schreiber, 381 U.S. 279, 290, 85 S.Ct. 1459, 1467, 14 L.Ed.2d 383 (1965), quoting F.C.C. v. Pottsville Broadcasting Co., 309 U.S. 134, 143, 60 S.Ct. 437, 441, 84 L.......
  • Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Corporation v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc Consumers Power Company v. Aeschliman, Nos. 76-419
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • April 3, 1978
    ...within the discretion of the agencies to which Congress had confided the responsibility for substantive judgments. In FCC v. Schreiber, 381 U.S. 279, 290, 85 S.Ct. 1459, 1467, 14 L.Ed.2d 383 (1965), the Court explicated Page 525 this principle, describing it as "an outgrowth of the congress......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
220 cases
  • Associated Press v. FCC, No. 23833
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • July 12, 1971
    ...134, 138, 60 S.Ct. 437, 84 L.Ed. 656 (1940); FCC v. WJR, 337 U.S. 265, 282-283, 69 S.Ct. 1097, 93 L.Ed. 1353 (1949); FCC v. Schreiber, 381 U.S. 279, 289, 85 S.Ct. 1459, 14 L.Ed.2d 383 (1965); Buckeye Cablevision, Inc. v. FCC, 128 U.S.App. D.C. 262, 269, 387 F.2d 220, 227 (1967). This observ......
  • Director, Office of Workers' Compensation Programs, U.S. Dept. of Labor v. Peabody Coal Co., Nos. 76-1577 and 76-1648
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • April 19, 1977
    ...v. Family Publications Service, Inc., 411 U.S. 356, 93 S.Ct. 1652, 36 L.Ed.2d 318 (1973); Federal Communications Commission v. Schreiber, 381 U.S. 279, 85 S.Ct. 1459, 14 L.Ed.2d 383 (1965); Gemsco, Incorporated v. Walling, Administrator of the Wage and Hour Division, U.S. Department of Labo......
  • Strang v. Marsh, Civ. A. No. 83-0409 P.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Rhode Island
    • February 21, 1985
    ...inquiry capable of permitting them to discharge their multitudinous duties."'" Id. at 543, 98 S.Ct. at 1211, quoting F.C.C. v. Schreiber, 381 U.S. 279, 290, 85 S.Ct. 1459, 1467, 14 L.Ed.2d 383 (1965), quoting F.C.C. v. Pottsville Broadcasting Co., 309 U.S. 134, 143, 60 S.Ct. 437, 441, 84 L.......
  • Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Corporation v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc Consumers Power Company v. Aeschliman, Nos. 76-419
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • April 3, 1978
    ...within the discretion of the agencies to which Congress had confided the responsibility for substantive judgments. In FCC v. Schreiber, 381 U.S. 279, 290, 85 S.Ct. 1459, 1467, 14 L.Ed.2d 383 (1965), the Court explicated Page 525 this principle, describing it as "an outgrowth of the congress......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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