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shown or even a telephone company without any interest being shown in the proceedings.
I can see a State commission where it would have authority.
Mr. Ross. I would like to say that we are against any amendment which would deprive interested telephone companies or the association of an opportunity for a hearing as is presently in the law. We do subscribe to the Federal Communications desire to eliminate a mandatory hearing in cases where there is no reason to have a hearing.
Mr. HINSHAW. Well, I think you would have to show a real interest in the case, in the proceedings, would you not, in order to be heard !
Mr. Ross. I believe we would.
Mr. WOLVERTON. I would be of the opinion that the question of interest would certainly be determined by the individuals who sought the hearing. I cannot imagine using the phrase of my friend from California.
Mr. HINSHAW. I am not a lawyer but you are, and my friend over here, Mr. Flynt, is. I sometimes find you are able to tangle me up in the law but you cannot do so in engineering.
Mr. WOLVERTON. That would be the furthest thought from my mind, to ever even attempt to tangle the gentleman from California by the use of language. His knowledge of the basic facts is always so broad and so well established that the mere use of words could never disturb him, so I would hesitate to attempt it on that basis.
What I do have in mind is this:
Taking up first the thought that this provides for a willy-nilly opportunity to be heard, I cannot imagine that any telephone company is going to ask for a hearing just willy-nilly without having any interest. I would assume that what they are striving to have here is an opportunity to be heard when they do have an interest.
I think the fact that they make an application to be heard could be taken as a basic thought that they had an interest without merely stating it in just formal language that they are interested.
Mr. HINSHAW. Would the gentleman yield ?
Mr. HINSHAW. This is not an application, this is simply a question. They write into the Commission and say, "I want to be heard,” and so they get heard.
Mr. WOLVERTON. That is right, and that is what I feel they are entitled to have because as I come to the phrase now that the gentleman used, and I assume he meant an association of telephone companies when he said trade associations
Mr. HINSHAW. I was referring to a trade association. An operating association is a different thing, in my view.
Mr. WOLVERTON. I am taking the language as this amendment contains it, a trade association in this proposed amendment. It will only take a minute, Mr. Chairman.
When we recognize that the Bell Telephone System, evidently they were very much interested in this legislation; when we recognize that they are so broad in character that they do not need any trade association, they just represent themselves and they cover anything that a trade association could do that it is as little as we could do in the
public interest, I am speaking of now, to give the independent telephone companies
that do render a service in some of our rural communities to such an extent that they are entitled to be heard, and I do not think it ought to be left to any regulatory body to determine whether they should be heard or not; that regulatory body has power after the hearing to deny the request that they make, but the opportunity to be heard should not be taken away from them, in my opinion.
Mr. HINSHAW. Mr. Chairman, I am glad to yield to my distinguished friend from New Jersey whose understandings of the law is next to that of the judiciary itself, if not better, but on the other hand, I will point out that this language leaves open an opportunity for a telephone company in New Jersey to interfere in a case in California, which obviously would have nothing to do with it.
Mr. WOLVERTON. I cannot conceive of any company in New Jersey trying to do anything that would be detrimental to a company in California unless the decision in the case would have a bearing upon the situation in New Jersey.
Mr. HINSHAW. Yes.
Mr. Ross. I would like to state for Congressman Hinshaw's benefit that in the last 5 years there has been 1 intervention in an acquisition case before the Federal Communications Commission which would indicate that the telephone companies are not going into these willy nilly, and there have been dozens of them over that period of time.
Mr. HINSHAW. We are suggesting an amendment to the law at this point.
Mr. Ross. Our only desire is that we be afforded an opportunity for hearing where we have a proper interest.
Mr. HINSHAW. That I am for: Letting you in where you have a proper interest.
Mr. Ross. The reason we have suggested the language we do is because it is language which has been approved and adopted by the Senate committee and is on the Senate floor.
Mr. FLYNT. I feel that any company who makes an intervention or request for intervention, that the mere fact of making such request is and ought to be prima facie evidence of an interest.
Mr. WOLVERTON. That is right.
Our colleague, Mr. Miller, has a letter addressed to the chairman of this subcommittee in the interests of H. R. 3789 and H. R. 4814 and, without objection, it will be included in the record at this point. (The information referred to follows:)
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
Washington, D. C., January 31, 1956. Hon. OREN HARRIS, Chairman, Subcommittee on Transportation and Communications,
House of Representatives, Washington, D.C. DEAR MR. HARRIS : I regret that because the appropriations subcommittee upon which I serve is engaged in a most important hearing this morning I am unable to appear before you in support of H. R. 3789 and H. R. 4814. I believe, however, that these measures supplement one another in an important field.
These measures amend section 315 of the Communications Act of 1934. H. R. 3789 would deny Communists and subversives the right to equal time for political purposes on radio and television stations. Under provisions of the
present law, if any radio or television station allows any individual candidate the use of its facilities, it must allow other candidates for the same office equal time to express their views. Experience has demonstrated that Communists and subversives have taken advantage of this feature of our present Communications Act for propaganda purposes.
H. R. 4814 would amend the Communications Act so as to relieve radio and television broadcasters from possible libel actions based upon defamatory statements made by candidates during political broadcasts, unless the station owner, or his agent, knowingly and willfully participates therein with the intent to defame. In an effort to protect their interests, station owners have had to resort to censorship of political broadcasts which in turn has made them susceptible to unjust criticism. Furthermore, in instances where such broadcasts were not censored, station owners have been sued as codefendants although they had no knowledge of what was to be said and might not have been in complete agreement with the statements made by the candidate.
It is my hope that the Interstate and Foreign Commerce Committee will give these important measures thorough consideration with the view of recommending their approval to the House at the earliest possible date. With best regards, I am, Sincerely yours,
EDWARD T. MILLER. Mr. Harris. We have a request from Senator Butler of Maryland, dated January 31, with regard to H. R. 3789, and another letter of the same date with regard to H. R. 4814.
Without objection, they will be included in the record at this point. (The information referred to follows:)
UNITED STATES SENATE,
January 31, 1956.
House of Representatives, Washington, D. C. DEAR Mr. PRIEST: At the present time your committee is considering H. R. 3789, which would amend section 315 of the Communications Act of 1934, so as to deny radio and television time for political purposes to individuals convicted of subversive activities and to members of Communist action, Communist-front or Communist-infiltrated organizations.
Under present provisions of law, Communists and subversives when engaged in political activity can claim equal radio time as afforded legitimate political candidates. While no radio or television station is now required to permit the use of its facilities by any particular individual, should permission be granted to one candidate, equal time must be allowed to all others running for the same office.
This provision, stemming from an abiding sense of fairness, has thus raised a new dilemma for the broadcasting industry. During the last election campaign, Communist factions made much ado about this “equal time” feature of the Communications Act. For example, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, recently convicted for violation of the Smith Act, was a candidate for Congress from New York under the banner of the previously unheard of Peoples Rights Party. She was able to use two radio stations, WBNX and WLIB in New York, to promote the Communist Party line in a futile bid for election to the House of Representatives.
This legislation would not prevent such individuals from running for public office. That is a State and local matter. But it would prevent them from using the airways to preach their sermons of treason.
With national elections but a few months away, it is my deep conviction that this measure should obtain immediate approval of Congress so that Communists and other subversives can be denied the opportunity to spread their vicious propaganda under the guise of legitimate campaign oratory. With best wishes, I am, Sincerely yours,
JOHN MARSHALL BUTLER,
United States Senator.
UNITED STATES SENATE,
January 31, 1956.
House of Representatives, Washington, D.O. DEAR CONGRESSMAN : Your committee is now considering House bill 4814, which would amend section 315 of the Communications Act of 1934 so as to relieve radio and television broadcasters from possible libel actions for defamatory statements made by candidates for political office in any broadcast, unless the station owner, or his agent, knowingly and willfully participates therein with the intent to defame.
Legislation of this type has long been needed. Present law places the radio and television industry at a distinct disadvantage. In effect it also places the broadcasters in the unpleasant and un-American role of censor. They are not qualified to censor political broadcasts. It is unfair to make them share responsibility with the political candidate for public office. He alone should be held accountable under the law for statements made over the air waves. All candidates should be willing to assume that responsibility.
In the past when broadcasters in attempting to carry out the provisions of law have interfered with what a candidate wanted to say, they have frequently caused ill feeling and been unfairly accused of political favoritism. They have also been hailed into court as codefendant when they were in complete disagreement with what the candidate had to say. This measure seeks to correct these injustices.
As the sponsor of similar legislation before the Senate (S. 1208), I have an intense interest in the measure and believe that everything possible should be done to assure its prompt approval. With best wishes, I am, Sincerely yours,
JOHN MARSHALL BUTLER,
United States Senator. Mr. HARRIS. We have a request here from the National Lawyers Guild by Miss Jessica Davidson, in the interests of H. R. 3789.
Without objection, it will be included in the record at this point. (The letter referred to follows:)
NATIONAL LAWYERS GUILD,
New York, N. Y., January 27, 1956. Hon. J. PERCY PRIEST,
House Office Building, Washington, D. C. DEAR CONGRESSMAN PRIEST: We appreciate receiving your notice of January 2, 1956, that Subcommittee on Transportation and Communications will hold hearings on a number of bills on January 31 and your keeping us on the list for such notices.
However, we will not ask for time to be heard since all but one of the bills deals with matters with respect to which we have no special concern.
There is one bill, H. R. 3789, as to which we should like to record our opposition. This bill proposes to withdraw equal opportunity for the use of broadcasting campaigns from individuals convicted under chapter 37, 105, or 115 of title 18 of the United States Code, described in the title of the bill as “individuals convicted of subversive activities."
The bill also proposes to withdraw equal privileges from anyone who is a member of any organization which is proscribed by section 3 of the Communist Control Act of 1954, which has registered as or been finally determined to be a Communist-action organization, a Communist-front organization, or a Communist inflitrated organization.
With regard to the first proposal, the National Lawyers Guild has consistently maintained that the Smith Act violates rights guaranteed by the first amendment and has agreed with the dissenting opinions of Justice Douglas and Black in U. 8. v. Dennis, that the act is unconstitutional. The fact that the Supreme Court has recently granted writs of certiorari of Smith Act convictions for unlimited review (the review in Dennis was limited) indicates that the Court may be preparing to reconsider the act's constitutionality. Recently, 48 prominent Americans asked President Eisenhower to pardon all persons convicted under the act
and to halt all trials, expressing their belief that the Smith Act is an invasion of personal liberty.
The question of the constitutionality of the McCarran Act under which organizations are required to register as “subversive,” is now pending before the Supreme Court, and the constitutionality of the Communist Control Act of 1954 has not yet been passed upon.
Under these circumstances, it would seem to be a most inappropriate time for Congress to propose new sanctions on persons who may come within the purview of the proposed bill. In our opinion, this type of discriminatory legislation is undesirable both on constitutional grounds and grounds of public policy.
We therefore urge your committee not to report favorably on H. R. 3789 and we ask that this letter be inserted in the record of your hearings. Sincerely yours,
JESSICA DAVIDSON, Secretary. Mr. HARRIS. Next we have a letter from Mr. Joseph P. Selly, president, American Communications Association, in the interests of H. R. 4939, which will be included without objection at this point. (The letter referred to follows:)
AMERICAN COMMUNICATIONS ASSOCIATION,
New York, N. Y., January 26, 1956. HOUSE COMMITTEE ON INTERSTATE AND FOREIGN COMMERCE,
House Office Building, Washington, D. C.
(Attention of Elton J. Layton, clerk.) DEAR SIRS : H. R. 4939, now before the committee, is, in our opinion, a bill wbich would jeopardize the public interest in communications, and which, therefore, should be rejected.
We call the attention of the committee particularly to section 3 (a) which would relieve the Federal Communications Commission of its present obligation to hold public hearings, and, instead, merely require the Commission to afford interested parties "a reasonable opportunity to submit comments on the proposal.”
During recent years the Commission has developed what now amounts to a virtually inflexible policy of denying public hearings in all cases not specifically covered by legislative statutes making hearings mandatory.
For example, the Commission has granted applications for closure of several thousand telegraph offices in recent years. Despite petitions from our own and other organizations, as well as requests from affected telegraph users, the Commission has failed to hold a single hearing on a closure application since 1947.
Similarly, the Commission has displayed a marked reluctance to submit its actions to public scrutiny in case after case involving rate changes, broadcast standards, and other matters directly affecting the public interest.
On the basis of the record, eliminating the requirement in section 221 that public hearings be held, and substituting for it the phrase "A public hearing shall be held in all cases unless the Commission determines that a hearing is not necessary in the public interest” is tantamount to guaranteeing that public hearings will be eliminated entirely. Though the change would affect directly only those matters covered by section 221, such a change could only serve to strengthen the Commission's refusal to hold hearings on all other matters on which it is permitted to exercise its own discretion.
Instead of such legislation as this, the public interest would be far better served by a thoroughgoing committee inquiry into the Commission's reluctance to hold public hearings, and proposals designed to remedy the evils which such a study would unquestionably reveal. Very truly yours,
JOSEPH P. SELLY, President. Mr. HARRIS. The committee will adjourn until tomorrow morning at 10:15, at which time Mr. Salant of the Columbia Broadcasting Co. will be the first witness.
(Whereupon, at 12:25 p. m., the subcommittee recessed, to reconvene at 10:15 a. m., Friday, February 3, 1956.)