Communications Act 48 Stat. 1064 (1934)
COMMUNICATIONS ACT 48 Stat. 1064 (1934)
The Communications Act of 1934, enacted under Congress's commerce power, provides the statutory basis for federal regulation of broadcasting and electronic communication. The act describes the electromagnetic spectrum as a national resource and permits private parties to use portions of it only as trustees in the public interest. To administer its provisions the act established the seven-member Federal Communications Commission (FCC), authorizing it to make regulations with the force of law and to issue licenses to broadcasters that may be granted, renewed, or revoked in accordance with "public interest, convenience, and necessity." Under the authority of the act the FCC has promulgated the fairness doctrine, requiring broadcasters to provide equal time for replies to controversial messages, as well as regulations to prohibit the broadcasting of obscenity.
The act was based on both technological and ideological considerations. The assumption that broadcasting channels are extremely limited has been disproved by improvements in technology; however, the ideological bias in favor of public ownership and regulation has not yet been overcome. Because of the Supreme Court's deference to Congress's findings of legislative fact regarding the scarcity of broadcasting channels, as embodied in the Communications Act, in the face of the manifest reality that such channels are far more numerous than, for example, presses capable of producing a major metropolitan newspaper or an encyclopedia, the protection afforded broadcasters' freedom of speech and freedom of the press is significantly reduced.
Dennis J. Mahoney