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FRC v. Nelson Brothers Bond & Mortgage Co., 289 U.S. 266 (1933)

Federal Radio Commission v. Nelson Brothers

Bond & Mortgage Co. (Station WIBO)

No. 657

Argued April 11, 1933

Decided May 8, 1933*

289 U.S. 266


1. Congress can confer administrative authority on courts of the District of Columbia, but jurisdiction to review administrative questions cannot be exercised by this Court. P. 289 U. S. 274.

2. Under the amended Radio Act, which limits review of the Radio Commission by the Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia to "questions of law" and provides

"that findings of fact by the Commission, if supported by substantial evidence, shall be conclusive unless it shall clearly appear that the findings of the Commission are arbitrary or capricious,"

the function of that court is no longer administrative, but is purely judicial, and its judgments are reviewable in this Court by certiorari. Federal Radio Comm'n v. General Electric Co., 281 U. S. 464, distinguished. Pp. 289 U. S. 275-278.

3. The fact that the judicial remedy is by appeal from the Commission, rather than by a suit de novo, does not affect its judicial quality. P. 289 U. S. 277.

4. That clause of the Act which provides that, in case of a reversal, the court "shall remand the case to the Commission to carry out

Page 289 U. S. 267

the judgment of the court," means no more than that the Commission, in its further action, is to respect and follow the court's determination of the questions of law. P. 289 U. S. 278.

5. Congress has power under the commerce clause to regulate radio communication. P. 289 U. S. 279.

6. The duty of the Radio Commission to make

"fair and equitable allocation of licenses, wavelengths, time of operation, and station power to each of the states within each zone according to population,"

under the Radio Act as amended, does not require separate allocation on that basis as to each of the three types of stations -- "clear, regional and local" -- in the Commission's classification. P. 289 U. S. 281.

7. The Commission, in making allocations of frequencies to states within a zone, has the power to license operation by a station in an under-quota state on a frequency theretofore assigned to a station in an over-quota state, provided the Commission does not act arbitrarily or capriciously. P. 289 U. S. 282.

8. The authority granted the Commission to effect adjustment of broadcasting facilities as between states "by granting or refusing licenses or renewals of licenses, by changing periods of time for operation, and by increasing or decreasing station power" plainly extends to the deletion of existing stations if that course be found necessary to produce an equitable result. P. 289 U. S. 282.

9. That Congress had the power to give this authority to delete stations, in view of the limited radio facilities available and confusion resulting from interferences, is not open to question. P. 289 U. S. 282.

10. Owners of broadcasting stations necessarily make their investments and contracts subject to the paramount regulatory power of Congress. P. 289 U. S. 282.

11. The power of Congress to regulate interstate commerce is not to be fettered by a necessity for maintaining private arrangements that would interfere with the execution of its policy. P. 289 U. S. 282.

12. In providing for "equal" allocation as between zones and "fair and equitable" allocation as between states in a zone, the Act seeks reasonable equality, not geographical merely, but of opportunity to the people, and this involves an equitable distribution not only as between zones, but between states as well. P. 289 U. S. 283.

13. To construe the authority conferred in relation to the deletion of stations as being applicable only to an apportionment between zones, and not between states, would defeat the manifest purpose of the Act. P. 289 U. S. 283.

Page 289 U. S. 268

14. A broadcasting license in one state may be renewed temporarily, subject to future action on an application pending for assignment of its wavelength to a station in another state of the same zone, and when the Commission decides to make the transfer, the license may be terminated in accordance with the reservation. Proceedings for revocation under § 14 of the Act are not involved. P. 289 U. S. 284.

15. The standard of "public convenience, interest or necessity" set up by the Act is not objectionable as conferring indefinite and unlimited power, but is defined by the context and subject matter, and, where an equitable adjustment between states is in view, by the relative advantages in service which will be enjoyed by the public through the distribution of facilities. P. 289 U. S. 285.

16. In making "fair and equitable allocation," the equities of existing stations must be considered, and the weight of the evidence on that subject and all other pertinent facts is for the determination of the Commission. P. 289 U. S. 285.

17. The Commission is not bound to maintain an allocation if fair and equitable distribution makes a change necessary. P. 289 U. S. 285.

18. The Commission must reach its own conclusions on the evidence, though at variance from the conclusions of its examiner. P. 289 U. S. 285.

19. A general order of the Radio Commission requiring that applicants in an under-quota state in a zone already enjoying its full pro rata share of broadcasting facilities shall apply for "some facility already in use in that zone by an over-quota state" held merely a rule of procedural convenience, which does not preclude consideration of whether other facilities in the over-quota state should be granted in place of those applied for. P. 289 U. S. 286.

20. Parties who were fully heard by the Commission's examiner and notified of the taking of the case to the Commission by their opponent upon exceptions to the examiner's report have no ground to complain of the Commission's omission to grant them an oral hearing for which they did not ask. P. 289 U. S. 287.

62 F.2d 854 reversed.

Certiorari, 288 U.S. 597, to review the reversal of an order of the Federal Radio Commission licensing a broadcasting station in Indiana to operate on a radio frequency theretofore assigned to and enjoyed by two stations in Illinois, and terminating the licenses of those stations.

Page 289 U. S. 269

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