The television station WLBT in Jackson, Mississippi sought a renewal of a license issued by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) (defendant). The Office of Communication of the United Church of Christ (plaintiff) was an instrumentality of the United Church of Christ, which had substantial membership within WLBT’s prime service area. The Office of Communication and two leaders of Mississippi civic and civil rights groups petitioned to intervene on behalf of all television viewers in the State of Mississippi to oppose WLBT’s renewal application. The plaintiffs argued WLBT failed to serve the public interest because its programming was discriminatory and included excessive commercials. The FCC denied the petition to intervene on the ground that the plaintiffs lacked standing. The plaintiffs appealed.