UNITED STATES V. RCA, 358 U. S. 334 (1959)

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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. RCA, 358 U.S. 334 (1959)

United States v. Radio Corporation of America

No. 54

Argued December 8, 1958

Decided February 24, 1959

358 U.S. 334


Approval by the Federal Communications Commission of appellees' agreement to exchange their television station in Cleveland for one in Philadelphia, which has since been consummated, does not bar this independent civil action by the Government under § 4 of the Sherman Act attacking the exchange as being in furtherance of a conspiracy to violate § 1 of that Act. Pp. 358 U. S. 335-353.

1. The legislative history of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, reveals that the Commission was not given the power to decide antitrust issues as such, and that Commission action was not intended to prevent enforcement of the antitrust laws in federal courts. Pp. 358 U. S. 339-346.

(a) A different result is not required by the fact that the 1952 amendments to the Act repealed the last sentence of § 311, which specifically provided that the granting of a license should not estop the United States or any aggrieved person from proceeding against the licensee under the antitrust laws. Pp. 358 U. S. 344-345.

(b) The last sentence of § 311, prior to its repeal in 1952, should not be construed narrowly as being intended to insure only that the granting of a license would not estop the Government from prosecuting antitrust violations subsequent to the transaction giving rise to the license proceeding, or of which the transaction was merely a small part. P. 358 U. S. 345.

2. There being no pervasive regulatory scheme or rate structure involved, the scheme of the Act does not require application of the doctrine of primary jurisdiction so as to permit the Government to attack the exchange transaction as violative of the Sherman Act only by intervention in the proceedings before the Commission or by judicial review of the Commission's decision. Pp. 358 U. S. 346-352.

3. Since the Commission has no power to decide antitrust questions, this independent antitrust suit is not barred by collateral estoppel, re judicata or laches. P. 358 U. S. 352.

158 F. Supp. 333, judgment vacated and case remanded for further proceedings.

Page 358 U. S. 335

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