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That information is contained in a letter to Senator Monroney of October 9, 1952. We confirmed that a few days ago with the Commission when they were here. The Chairman stated otherwise, and some of us questioned him about it, and the counsel, as Mr. Rogers said, did come forward and corrected the record on it.
That is what I wanted to ask if you had any opinion on.
Meet the Press is a format and recognized as one of the outstanding. It is sponsored, I believe, by
Mr. BUTLER. Johns-Manville.
Mr. HARRIS. And Pan American, I think. Do you feel that if a candidate for office is selected for that program, which is a program paid by the sponsor, that it should be the obligation, then, of the station to give free equal time to any other candidate for the same office ?
Mr. BUTLER. I don't know that I would want to express an opinion on that. I am wondering whether the time should come from the station or from the same sponsor that gave the time to the candidate originally.
Mr. HARRIS. I don't think we would have any authority to force that.
Mr. BUTLER. No, you would not. Of course, the Commission here apparently has ruled by its own rules and regulations that the candidate should be given free time. It does not say whether by the station or by the sponsor.
Mr. HARRIS. The Commission has no authority over any one except the station.
Mr. DOLLIVER. It says at no cost to the candidate.
Mr. BUTLER. I presume that when an advertiser contracts with either a station or a network, it does so subject to all the rules and regulations of the Federal Communications Commission.
Mr. HARRIS. Yes. I am wondering, though, if as a matter of policy the station should be required or obligated, I might say, to give free time when someone else has purchased that time, and used it for the purpose he wants to use it.
Mr. BUTLER. I would guess just as a lawyer, Congressman, that the station and the networks would probably have a written contract with their commercial advertisers using the time to provide that if any part of their program required or resulted in any demand for equal time upon the network or the station, that the sponsor of the program would have to supply the cost.
Mr. HARRIS. I don't know how they could make that requirement.
Mr. ROGERS. There was another situation that came about where I appeared on a news broadcast, and my opponent asked for equal time. That situation is what actually points up this bill. You see, this refers to news, news interview, news documentary, panel discussions. Of course, any company that puts on a paid program which sponsors the broadcast of the news, like the First National Bank in some of the smaller towns, if they put me on there while I am a candidate for this office, then all my opponents are entitled to equal time.
Mr. BUTLER. Not under the amendment.
Mr. ROGERS. That is right, but the reason for the amendment is so they can put those people on there without subjecting themselves to putting the others on, even if it is a paid program.
Mr. BUTLER. As long as they put you on, it would be all right. Both with you and with me.
Mr. Rogers. That might depend on several things. Mr. HARRIS. This is a highly important problem, too, in connection with campaigns. Certainly I know what your great obligations are. One of the greatest, of course, is toward helping to finance the national campaign. Then the funds have to come from the general public: The question of contributions arises all the time, as we know.
Do you think that such a provision as this, giving the networks the authority to put these candidates of major parties on their public service programs, would reduce the responsibility that the national parties would have in raising their required funds for campaign purposes?
Mr. BUTLER. No, I don't believe it would reduce their responsibilities. I think it would certainly help them raise their funds. It would better inform more citizens. It would arouse greater participation in political activity. I think it would result in more small contributions from the grassroots citizens of our country which I think is all to be desired.
Mr. HARRIS. You mentioned a moment ago about Mr. Graham's proposal as to the method for raising funds. If this procedure were to be followed, do you think the total cost to the national candidacy would be reduced ?
Mr. BUTLER. Yes, I do think so.
Mr. HARRIS. It would not be necessary for you, as the chairman of our National Democratic Party to raise quite as much money as you have to do under present circumstances?
Mr. BUTLER. I think that is probably true. However, I think that the broadcasts or telecasts themselves would result in a wider participation. There would be more people giving an average amount smaller than otherwise, and I think anything that will reduce the control or domination of our political parties by people of great wealth will be to the benefit of the people.
Mr. Hinshaw. Mr. Chairman, I would like to point out that any citizen of the United States is a legally qualified candidate for any office by the write-in process. Your term, "legally qualified candidate” has got to be defined unless you are going to include every person who is a legally qualified person to vote in the United States. I know in my State, and I think in others there can be write-in candidates. There are spaces left on the ballot. A person who becomes without his consent a write-in candidate can be elected to an office.
Mr. BUTLER. I am very much in favor of any provisions in the bill which will protect so-called minority groups or regional groups who may bring forth a candidate for the Presidency in either major political party or in opposition to the major political party candidates. We would certainly support that kind of a provision.
Mr. WILLIAMS. I have a question I would like to ask purely for information.
Under present law-I understand this bill will not affect this one way or another, but I am just curious—are the national parties presently, permitted to solicit funds and contributions over radio and television ?
Mr. BUTLER. Yes, provided we pay for the time.
Mr. WILLIAMS. That is not a violation of the Corrupt Practices Act or other Federal statute ?
Mr. BUTLER. No, provided we pay for the time. Every once in a while we sneak into the program a little reminder to the people.
Mr. HARRIS. Let me thank you. You have observed the interest of the committee in this subject which manifests the interest not only of the Congress but of the people throughout the United States in good government.
Mr. BUTLER. Let me thank you, Mr. Chairman, and all of the members, and let me say I have been greatly impressed by the tremendous interest you have in this problem. I certainly look forward to the report of the committee.
Mr. HARRIS. Thank you.
(Whereupon, at 1:05 p. m., the committee recessed subject to call of the Chair.)
COMMUNICATIONS ACT AMENDMENTS
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 8, 1956
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
Washington, D. c. The subcommittee met, pursuant to adjournment, at 10:15 a. m., in room 1435, 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 resumes hearings this morning on various bills to amend the Communications Act of 1934.
We are honored to have as one of our colleagues this morning, the Honorable Francis E. Dorn, of New York, who is sponsor of H. R. 7249, relating to false distress signals by radio.
Mr. Dorn, we are glad to have you before this committee. We welcome you to give us the benefit of your information in connection with this proposed legislation.
STATEMENT OF HON. FRANCIS E. DORN, A REPRESENTATIVE IN
CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Mr. Dorn. Thank you so much, Mr. Chairman. I am here today to speak in behalf of my bill, H. R. 7249, which would amend the Communications Act of 1934 to increase the penalty for transmitting false distress signals by radio.
It is my understanding that the present law covering such an offense carries the maximum penalty of 1 year in jail and a $5,000 fine, upon conviction.
I am sure all of you remember, in July of last year, when two young men broke into a moored fishing boat and, over the craft's ship-to-shore radio, broadcast a fake distress call. This set off a search by the United States Coast Guard which covered an area of approximately 4,000 square miles, and entailed the use of 5 ships and 3 planes guided by an intricate communications network. It has been reported that this search cost upwards of $50,000.
The initial report was picked up by the tug Nancy Moran in good faith, and was purported to have come from the 42-foot fishing vessel Blue Star, which said it was in trouble after having struck an underwater object 55 miles southeast of Ambrose Lightship; that it was afire; that life preservers were unreachable because of the fire; and that a foreign submarine had surfaced close by and was taking off survivors. The Nancy Moran relayed this message to the United States Coast Guard.
Although the Coast Guard began immediate checking on the possibility of a hoax, they did not delay making a search, pending a report, lest it result in loss of life. The search began in the early morning hours of July 8. On July 9, Nassau County police arrested two young men who subsequently admitted having sent the false distress signals after questioning by both the county police and Federal Communications investigators.
On July 12, the two were formally charged with third degree burglary by the State, which charges were later dismissed. They were then arraigned in the Brooklyn Federal Court, accused of operating a radio telephone without a license and broadcasting false distress signals. The older, a youth of 21 years of age, was placed under $5,000 bail, and the younger, a boy of 16, under $1,000 bail.
The younger boy was eventually tried in the Brooklyn Federal court of juvenile delinquency, found guilty, and given a 1-year suspended sentence. The older, having previously pled guilty before The Federal court, was sent to the Federal Correctional Institute at Ashland, Ky., for an indeterminate term.
Of course, the boys were tried in courts of law and sentenced as the judges deemed sufficient punishment. I believe the seriousness of the crime warrants an increase in the penalty, if for no other reason than to so impress the adjudicating officer, and as a deterrent to any future criminal actions in this field.
While this particular search did not result in any loss of life on the part of the searchers, I am sure we have all read of cases when this has happened—where a plane has gone down with all aboard, and been lost, while searching for someone in distress or lost. I wonder what the judges' reactions would have been in the case of these two young men if such a thing had happened during the search they set under way with their false distress call?
I understand the Federal Communications Commission entertains no objection to the passage of this bill; the Bureau of the Budget has no recommendation; the report from the Department of the Treasury favors its passage; the Department of Defense favors its passage; and the Department of Commerce favors its passage with an amendment, however, which would include other false warnings, such as false hurricane reports, false air raid warnings, etcetera. I am most amenable to this strengthening of my bill.
I urge you gentlemen also to favor the passage of this bill with the suggested amendment.
Mr. HARRIS. We thank you very much, Mr. Dorn. We are pleased to have your comments on the importance of this proposal.
Is there another bill similar to yours?
Mr. HINSHAW. I would like to compliment the gentleman for having brought this before our committee and to ask him some questions. I guess I really ought to ask the Department of Commerce these questions because it is the one that made the suggestion.
You are talking about false hurricane warnings. But I do not think that any warning concerning a hurricane can exactly be considered false because it is not something that can hide itself. That seems to me a little bit ridiculous. Of course, a hurricane cannot hide itself.