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FCC V. SCHREIBER, 381 U. S. 279 (1965)

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U.S. Supreme Court

FCC v. Schreiber, 381 U.S. 279 (1965)

Federal Communications Commission v. Schreiber

No. 482

Argued April 27, 1965

Decided May 24, 1965

381 U.S. 279


To secure comprehensive information about various practices in the television industry, the Federal Communications Commission initiated an investigatory proceeding pursuant to § 403 of the Communications Act. The Presiding Officer, assigned to conduct the proceeding, was authorized by the Commission to subpoena witnesses and to compel the production of any records or documents deemed relevant. The proceedings were to be public unless the Presiding Officer found that "the public interest, the proper dispatch of the business . . . , or the ends of justice" would be served by nonpublic sessions. The Presiding Officer issued a subpoena duces tecum directing respondent Schreiber, an executive of respondent Music Corporation of America, Inc. (MCA), to produce lists of network programs which MCA had produced (Annex A to subpoena) or packaged (Annex B). Respondent Schreiber produced the material called for in Annex A, but, claiming that public disclosure of the Annex B information might reveal trade secrets and confidential data, refused to produce said information unless assured that it would be received and held in confidence. The Presiding Officer rejected the demand. The full Commission upheld the Presiding Officer and reaffirmed its resolve to permit nonpublic sessions only in extraordinary situations where it was shown that irreparable damage to private competitive interests outweighed the public interest in disclosure. The Commission noted that the Presiding Officer had acted consistently with that standard, and held that respondents' claim of likely competitive injury was unsupported by the pleadings and contrary to the record. Upon remand, the Presiding Officer rejected respondents' broadened claim for confidential treatment of all information to be elicited from them, but respondent Schreiber persisted in his refusal to comply with the Commission's orders and subpoena. The District Court granted the Commission's petition for enforcement, but, "to preclude disclosure of trade secrets of which (MCA's) competitors might take advantage," ordered that the material be received and held in confidence. The court's order further provided chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 381 U. S. 280

that, after the investigation of respondents had been completed, the Commission could move the court, upon good cause, for an order permitting such testimony and documents to be made public. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the District Court had not abused its discretion in conditioning the enforcement of the Commission's subpoena and orders.


1. Under the broad delegation of procedural rulemaking authority in § 4(j) of the Communications Act, which authorizes the Commission to "conduct its proceedings in such manner as will best conduce to the proper dispatch of business and to the ends of justice," the Commission was empowered to promulgate the procedural rule requiring public proceedings except where the proponents of a request for in camera treatment have demonstrated the need therefor. Pp. 381 U. S. 289-294.

2. In providing for judicial review of administrative rulemaking, Congress has not empowered district courts to substitute their judgment for that of the agency; instead, judicial responsibility is limited to insuring consistency with governing statutes and the demands of the Constitution. Pp. 381 U. S. 290-291.

3. The Commission did not abuse its discretion in applying its procedural rule and in rejecting respondents' requests for confidential treatment of all material to be elicited in the future, pp. 381 U. S. 295-298, and for confidential treatment of the Annex B information, pp. 381 U. S. 298-300.

329 F.2d 517 modified and remanded.

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