Red Lion Broadcasting Co. v. Federal Communications Commission

Red Lion Broadcasting Co. V. Federal Communications Commission

Red Lion Broadcasting Co. v. Federal Communications Commission

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Red Lion Broadcasting Co. v. Federal Communications Commission, 395 U.S. 367 (1969), established the doctrine that broadcast television stations (and by logical extension, radio stations) are full First Amendment speakers whose editorial speech could not be regulated absent good reason. However, because they were granted government licenses on a scarce radio spectrum, they could be regulated to preserve openness in covering news by the FCC.

The FCC by administrative rulemaking had a requirement that discussion of public issues be presented on broadcast stations, and that each side of those issues must be given fair coverage. 395 U.S. 367, 369. As a result the FCC added an "equal time rule" and a "response to personal attack" rule. Red Lion Broadcasting Co. challenged these rules as unconstitutionally infringing on the speech of the station's editorial judgment. Justice Byron White, writing for the majority explained, the FCC has included among the conditions of the Red Lion license itself the requirement that operation of the station be carried out in the public interest. Id. at 380. .

Official syllabus

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has for many years imposed on broadcasters a "fairness doctrine," requiring that public issues be presented by broadcasters and that each side of those issues be given fair coverage. In No. 2, the FCC declared that petitioner Red Lion Broadcasting Co. had failed to meet its...
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