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FCC v. WNCN Listeners Guild
United States Supreme Court
450 U.S. 582 (1981)
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) (defendant) was tasked with granting broadcast-license applications if it determined that the license would be used in service of the public interest. A situation commonly arose in which an applicant for a broadcast-license renewal had or was planning to change the format of its broadcasting. In 1976 the FCC issued a policy statement after determining that reviewing format changes was not required by the Communications Act of 1934, would not advance the public interest, would impose substantial administrative burdens, and would discourage innovation in radio broadcasting. Rather than the reviewing format changes, the FCC determined that it would be more appropriate for format changes to be scrutinized through market forces. The WNCN Listeners Guild (plaintiff) challenged the policy statement. The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit held that the FCC’s policy statement was invalid. The court of appeals believed that market forces imperfectly reflect listener preferences and that the public interest would be better served if the FCC reviewed format changes. The FCC appealed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (White, J.)
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