Character and Candor Requirements for FCC Licensees, 22 Law & Contemp. Probs. 644 (1957)
The Communications Act explicitly makes the applicant's character an element in licensing. Applications must "set forth such facts as the Commission by regulation may prescribe as to the citizenship, character, and financial, technical, and other qualifications of the applicant to operate the station." Even in the absence of such guidance, the Commission could scarcely ignore evidence of bad character in making its ultimate determination whether a grant will serve the "public convenience, interest, or necessity." The Act mentions the related problem of misrepresentation only in connection with the Commission's power to revoke licenses. Misrepresentation, or lack of candor, may, nevertheless, be treated as a defect of character, or as an independent ground for finding that public interest does not call for licensing someone who deceives the licensing authority. There is, it will appear, not much question about the Commission's power to demand high standards of truthfulness and candor as well as of character. There is also little doubt that, at least for the last decade, the Commission has set high standards. The questions that merit attention are rather these:
1) In what circumstances is the power exercised?
2) Is it abused, either by the Commission or by parties who bring before the Commission unwarranted charges of bad character or of deception?
3) If there are abuses, how can they be checked?
It may be said at the outset, without trying to prefigure any recommendations in conclusion, that there appear to be two forms of excessive concern with character and candor. The first is a tendency of parties, in hard-fought comparative proceedings, to dredge up remote and far-fetched charges of any conceivable kind of wrongdoing. The second, in which the Commission has taken the lead, is to make questionable inquiries about radical or subversive political associations. Examples of these practices will emerge from the discussion that follows.
Date of Authorship for this Version
Brown, Ralph S. Jr., "Character and Candor Requirements for FCC Licensees" (1957). Faculty Scholarship Series. 2723.