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U.S. Supreme Court

National Cable Television Assn. v. United States, 415 U.S. 336 (1974)

National Cable Television Assn., Inc. v. United States

No. 72-948

Argued December 3, 1973

Decided March 4, 1974

415 U.S. 336


The Independent Offices Appropriation Act, 1952 (hereafter the Act), authorizes each federal agency to prescribe by regulation such fee for the agency's services as is determined to be fair and equitable, taking into consideration the direct and indirect "cost to the Government, value to the recipient, public policy or interest served, and other pertinent facts. . . ." Pursuant to the Act, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), in revising fees imposed upon community antenna television (CATV) systems, first estimated its direct and indirect costs for CATV regulations, and then, while retaining filing fees, added an annual fee for each CATV system at the rate of 30� per subscriber, concluding that this fee would approximate the "value to the recipient" used in the Act. The Court of Appeals, on a review obtained by petitioner, a CATV trade association, approved the FCC's action.


1. The Act authorizes the imposition of a "fee," which connotes a "benefit" of "value to the recipient." The latter phrase is the proper measure of the authorized charge, not the "public policy or interest served" phraseology which, if read literally, would enable the agency to make assessments or tax levies whereby CATV's and other broadcasters would be paying not only for the benefits they received but, contrary to the Act's objectives, would also be paying for the protective services the FCC renders to the public. Pp. 415 U. S. 340-343.

2. The FCC should reappraise the annual fee imposed upon the CATV's. It is not enough to figure the total cost (direct and indirect) to the FCC for operating a CATV supervision unit and then to contrive a formula reimbursing the FCC for that amount, since some of such costs certainly inured to the public's benefit, and should not have been included in the fee imposed upon the CATV's. Pp. 415 U. S. 343-344.

464 F.2d 1313, reversed and remanded.

Page 415 U. S. 337

DOUGLAS, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J.,and STEWART, WHITE, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. MARSHALL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN, J., joined, post, p. 415 U. S. 352. BLACKMUN and POWELL, JJ., took no part in the decision of the case.

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