FCC V. WJR, THE GOODWILL STATION, INC., 337 U. S. 265 (1949)

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U.S. Supreme Court

FCC v. WJR, The Goodwill Station, Inc., 337 U.S. 265 (1949)

Federal Communications Commission v.

WJR, The Goodwill Station, Inc.

No. 495

Argued April 22, 1949

Decided June 6, 1949

337 U.S. 265


Without notice to Radio Station WJR, which was licensed as a Class I Station, the Federal Communications Commission granted another party an application for a permit to construct a Class II Station to broadcast on the same frequency previously used exclusively by WJR. Alleging that the new station would cause "objectionable interference" with its broadcast signal, WJR petitioned for reconsideration of the application and for a hearing to which it might be made a party or, in the alternative, that final action on the application be postponed until the conclusion of a pending "clear channel" proceeding, in which the Commission was considering allowing WJR and other stations to increase their power. The applicant challenged the legal sufficiency of WJR's petition on the ground that WJR had not set forth facts which, if accepted as true, would constitute interference with WJR's "normally protected contour." The Commission denied WJR's petition without oral argument.


1. The Commission was under no duty to WJR to postpone final action on the application for the permit until it had disposed of the "clear channel" proceeding. P. 337 U. S. 272.

2. The Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment did not require that the Commission afford WJR an opportunity for oral argument upon its petition for reconsideration of the application. Pp. 337 U. S. 272-285.

(a) Procedural due process under the Fifth Amendment does not require that an opportunity for oral argument be afforded on every question of law raised before a judicial or quasi-judicial tribunal, excepting such questions as may be involved in interlocutory orders. Pp. 337 U. S. 274-277.

(b) The procedure provided by Congress in the Communications Act for determination of the questions raised by WJR is not lacking in due process. Pp. 337 U. S. 277-285.

(c) The provision of § 409(a) for oral argument before the Commission in proceedings heard initially before an examiner is inapplicable here, since this proceeding was not heard or assigned

Page 337 U. S. 266

for hearing in the first instance before an examiner, and WJR's claimed right of participation arises under § 312(b). Pp. 337 U. S. 277-278.

(d) By §§ 312(b) and 4(j), Congress has committed to the Commission's discretion the questions whether and under what circumstances it will allow or require oral argument, except where the Act expressly requires it. Pp. 337 U. S. 281-282.

(e) The provision of § 312(b) for "reasonable opportunity to show cause" is not to be construed as always including opportunity for oral argument. Pp. 337 U. S. 282-283.

(f) This Court cannot say that the Commission abused its discretion in determining WJR's petition on the written submission. P. 337 U. S. 284.

3. It was error for the Court of Appeals to decline to decide the merits of the question whether WJR's petition stated a legally sufficient case of (indirect) modification of its license within the terms of § 312(b), as well as to decide, without determining that question, that WJR was entitled to be made a party to and participate as such in the proceedings on the application. P. 337 U. S. 284.

4. The cause is remanded to the Court of Appeals for decision of the basic issue on the merits, uncomplicated by questions of constitutionality relating to the Commission's procedure. P. 337 U. S. 285.

84 U.S.App.D.C. 1, 174 F.2d 226, reversed.

The Federal Communications Commission denied WJR's petition for reconsideration of an order granting to another an application for a permit to construct a radio station. The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded the case to the Commission. 84 U.S.App.D.C. 1, 174 F.2d 226. This Court granted certiorari. 336 U.S. 917. Reversed and remanded, p. 337 U. S. 285.

Page 337 U. S. 267

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