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Reuters Ltd. V. FCC

United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia
781 F.2d 946 (1986)


Facts

On or about August 12, 1983, Reuters Limited (Reuters) (plaintiff) filed with the Federal Communications Commission (Commission) (defendant) applications for 13 microwave radio licenses in various cities across the country. On September 23, 1983, the Commission’s Private Radio Bureau approved the 13 applications. On the same date, Associated Information Services Corporation (Associated) sought to file 39 applications in the same 13 cities. However, Associated misfiled the applications at the wrong location, and they were not filed until September 28, 1983. Consequently, at the time the Commission approved Reuters’ licenses, there were no competing applications on file. Associated protested the award of licenses to Reuters, arguing the Commission improperly granted the licenses prior to the expiration of the 60-day filing period. Associated relied on an ambiguous order regarding filing timelines issued by the FCC in a recent rulemaking proceeding. Reuters argued the Commission’s rules expressly permitted the Commission to award licenses after 30 days if no competing applications were on file. In response to Associated’s challenge, the Private Radio Bureau rescinded the 13 licenses. Reuters appealed to the full Commission. The Commission agreed with Reuters that its rules permitted the issuance of licenses after 30 days, but nevertheless rescinded its grant of the licenses and allowed Associated’s applications to stand as competing applications. The Commission found this result was in the interest of justice because its prior pronouncements were ambiguous and could be construed to guarantee a 60-day filing period. Reuters challenged the rescission of its licenses before the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Starr, J.)

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