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COMMUNICATIONS ACT AMENDMENTS
TUESDAY, JANUARY 31, 1956
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
Washington, D. C. The subcommittee met, pursuant to call, in room 1302, New House Office Building, Hon. Oren Harris (chairman of the subcommittee) presiding.
Mr. HARRIS. The committee will come to order.
The Subcommittee on Transportation and Communications is meeting this morning to initiate hearings on various bills proposing to amend the Federal Communications Act of 1934.
Now, it will be remembered that this committee, together with the Commerce Committee of the Senate, considered at length amendments to the Federal Communications Act which became the MacFarland amendments and after several years consideration passed a bill with various and sundry amendments which became law, I believe, in 1952.
At that time there were many highly controversial issues considered by the committee that were not resolved; but in an effort to accomplish as much as we could, that was desirable—and that might be questionable in the minds of some people we did adopt such amendments as could be agreed upon.
In conference, there were many differences between the House and Senate versions. A number of those questions that could not be resolved were passed over with the understanding that they would receive further consideration.
Some of those were highly controversial and all of them technical.
Some of the more highly controversial issues at that time are still highly controversial. Some of them are involved in some of the bills that are presented here for our consideration.
There are some things that I believe most everyone feels should be considered and some are desirable amendments that probably should be adopted.
It is not going to be the purpose of this committee to settle all these questions at this time or I suppose any other time because new problems develop from year to year.
We do feel, however, that we should take a look at many of these things. There are many changes that have taken place in the radio and television industry since 1951 or 1952. There are many new developments. Consequently we have tried to bring these matters in that we feel are of urgent importance, as well as some of less urgency, to the attention of the Congress. During these hearings we hope that we will be able to accomplish something in the interest of the industry, which of course, would be in the interest of the public.
I want to express my appreciation to the members of this subcommittee for their attendance this morning.
I might say for the benefit of some of our newer members on the committee that this is another one of those most highly technical subjects that requires a great deal of study and attention to get your teeth into it. Several of us went through that experience in 1950, 1951, and 1952. Therefore, I am pleased to see the fine attendance here this morning, because we want to get acquainted with the issues involved and the sponsors of the various proposals, in order that we can do the best possible job in the consideration of these various bills.
We have endeavored to arrange the bills in several groups according to subjects with which they deal.
We have H. R. 3789 and H. R. 4814, both introduced by our colleague from Maryland, Mr. Miller, as well as the bill which I introduced, H. R. 6810, which would amend section 315 of the Communications Act dealing with political broadcast.
That is one of the questions that has been brought to my attention, I might say, by the industry particularly. It was stated that it is necessary that something be done if many of the programs that the public has been enjoying for the last few years are to continue. I know that the other members of this committee share this thought with me, that we would not want anyone to get the impression that before they can continue their television and radio weekly programs back in their own districts, they must have a permit from one of us on this committee. I received such a request yesterday, advising me, unless I gave them permission, that on next week they were going to be taken off of their weekly program, or their television program back home. That is a facetious statement, of course, but nevertheless it does show you the importance of this issue throughout the United States, among those who are giving the time on their stations, as a public service.
H. R. 6968, introduced by our colleague from Indiana, Mr. Beamer, and H. R. 6977, which was introduced, I might say, by request by myself, are identical bills dealing with the question of ownership of radio and television stations by persons owning newspapers or other media primarily engaged in gathering and dissemination of information. That was one of the subjects considered in connection with the MacFarland amendments.
H. R. 7249 introduced by our colleague, Mr. Dorn, and H. R. 7536, by our colleague, a member of this committee, Mr. Macdonald, and H. R. 7789 by our colleague, Mr. O'Neill, deal with different aspects of safety at sea. It occurs to me that that is a new question that we have before us that we have not had before.
We have also H. R. 4939, and H. R. 5613 dealing with various provisions of the Communications Act introduced by the distinguished chairman of this committee, Mr. Priest, by request of the Federal Communications Commission. We also have House Joint Resolution 138 and House Joint Resolution 139 introduced by me, and H. R. 6631, introduced by Mr. Priest at the request of the Judicial Conference. Incidentally, I have a request from the Judicial Conference advising that their spokesman Judge Albert B. Maris will be unable to be here today, because he has been called out of the country. He is on an important mission and will not be back for several days,
and they have asked that the record be held open for him or someone representing him. Certainly that privilege will be extended.
(H. R. 3789, H. R. 4814, H. R. 6810, H. R. 6968, H. R. 6977, H. R. 7249, H. R. 7536, H. R. 7789, H. R. 4939, H. R. 5613, H. R. 6631, H. J. Res. 138 and H. J. Res. 139 above referred to and the Department reports follow :)
[H. R. 3789, 84th Cong., 1st sess. ]
A BILL To amend section 315 (a) of the Communications Act of 1934 to withdraw from
individuals convicted of subversive activities and members of certain subversive organizations the right of equal opportunity for the use of broadcasting facilities in political campaigns
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congresss assembled, That section 315 (a) of the Communications Act of 1934 (47 U. S. C. 315 (a)) is amended to read as follows:
“(a) If any licensee shall permit any person who is a legally qualified candidate for any public office to use a broadcasting station, he shall afford equal opportunities in the use of such broadcasting station to all other such candidates for that office, except that no licensee shall be required to afford any such equal opportunity to any individual who (1) has been convicted of any offense punishable under chapter 37, 105, or 115 of title 18 of the United States Code, or (2) is a member of any organization which is proscribed by section 3 of the Communist Control Act of 1954 (68 Stat. 776) or which under the Subversive Activities Control Act of 1950 is registered as, or has been finally determined to be, a Communist-action organization, a Communist-front organization, or a Communistinfiltrated organization. Such licensee shall have no power of censorship over the material broadcast under the provisions of this section. No obligation is im. posed upon any licensee to allow the use of its station by any such candidate."
DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE,
Washington, July 15, 1955.
House of Representatives, Washington, D. C. DEAR MR. CHAIRMAN: This is in response to your request for the views of the Department of Justice relative to the bill (H. R. 3789) to amend section 315 (a) of the Communications Act of 1934 to withdraw from individuals convicted of subversive activities and members of certain subversive organizations the right of equal opportunity for the use of broadcasting facilities in political campaigns.
Section 315 (a) of the Communications Act of 1934 now provides that if a licensee permits a person who is a legally qualified candidate for public office, to use a broadcasting station he shall afford an equal opportunity for the use of such broadcasting station to all other such candidates for that office. This bill would amend the section so as not to require the licensee to afford such equal opportunity to any individual who “(1) has been convicted of any offense punishable under chapter 37, 105, or 115 of title 18 of the United States Code, or (2) is a member of any organization which is proscribed by section 3 of the Communist Control Act of 1954 (68 Stat. 776) or which under the Subversive Activities Control Act of 1950 is registered as, or has been finally determined to be, a Communist-action organization, a Communist-front organization, or a Communist-infiltrated organization."
Chapters 37, 105, and 115 of title 18 relate respectively to espionage, sabotage, and treason, sedition, and subversive activities. The organizations proscribed by section 3 of the Communist Control Act are the Communist Party of the United States, or any successors of such party, whose object or purpose is to overthrow the Government of the United States, or the Government of any State, Territory, District, or possession thereof, or the Government of any political subdivision therein, by force and violence.
Whether legislation such as this should be enacted constitutes a question of legislative policy concerning which the Department of Justice prefers to make 110 recommendation. However, there are a number of considerations pertaining to the instant bill to which the attention of the committee is invited.
The language of the exception which the measure proposes to introduce into section 315 of the Communications Act appears permissive in that the licensee is not required to refuse the use of his facilities to any person who may come within the excepted category. However, if the licensee should determine to his own satisfaction that a candidate comes within an excepted category it would seem that he must act at his peril in denying the use of his facilities.
Section 501, the general penalty section of the Communications Act, provides that any person who willfully and knowingly omits or fails to do any act, matter, or thing the act requires to be done shall be punished by a fine and/or imprisonment. Since no standards are established in this bill indicating just what a licensee must do to avoid violating section 501 in refusing the use of his facilities to a particular candidate, the legislation may be iniposing an undue burden upon licensees.
Another area of concern to which the committee may wish to direct its attention involves the exception designated “2." In providing for the denial of broadcasting facilities to a member of the Communist Party or of a Communist-action organization, a Communist-front organization or a Communist-infiltrated organization, the measure fails to fix a means for establishing such membership. Furthermore, it should be remembered that there are alleged Communist unions having valid contracts making them the sole bargaining agents for workers in particular plants. Hence, non-Communists who must retain their membership in these unions or lose their jobs, and who may seek public office, could be denied equal time if the bill is enacted. A final consideration to which the attention of the committee is called is the fact that the exceptions are so couched as to speak only as of the time a candidate seeks to use a broadcasting station. Consequently, resignation from any of the types of organizations covered by the measure could remove an individual from the disabilities contemplated by the bill, with the individual resuming his membership after the broadcasting facilities have been used.
The Bureau of the Budget has advised that there is no objection to the submission of this report. Sincerely,
WILLIAM P. ROGERS, Deputy Attorney General.
FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION,
Washington, D. C., July 14, 1955. Hon. J. PERCY PRIEST, Chairman, Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce,
House of Representatives, Washington, D. C. DEAR CONGRESSMAN PRIEST: This is in reply to your committee's request for the Commission's comments concerning H. R. 3789, a bill to amend section 315 (a) of the Communications Act to withdraw from individuals convicted of subversive activities and members of certain subversive organizations the right of equal opportunity for the use of broadcasting facilities in political campaigns.
Enclosed are copies of the Commission's comments concerning this bill. The Commission will be pleased to furnish any additional information or comments which your committee may desire.
The Bureau of the Budget has informed us that it has no objection to the submission of these comments to your committee. Sincerely yours,
GEORGE C. McCONNAUGHEY, Chairman.
STATEMENT OF GEORGE C. McCONNAUGHEY, CHAIRMAN OF THE FEDERAL COMMU
NICATIONS COMMISSION, ON H. R. 3789, A BILL TO AMEND SECTION 315 (a) OF THE COMMUNICATIONS ACT OF 1934
H. R. 3789 would amend section 315 (a) of the Communications Act to provide that a station licensee need not afford the right to equal broadcasting opportunities to
(1) persons convicted of espionage, sabotage, treason, sedition, or subversive activities ;
(2) members of the Communist Party or any successor organization; or
(3) members of any organization which, under the Subversive Activities Control Act of 1950 is registered as, or has finally been determined to be a Communist-action, Communist-front, or Communist-infiltrated organization.