A Grammar of American Politics: The National Government

By Wilfred E. Binkley; Malcolm C. Moos | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XVIII
THE INDEPENDENT COMMISSIONS

LET me ask you," wrote Justice Frankfurter some years ago in a lively essay on the demands of society upon government, "to bring into sharp focus what it is that a modern state like our own government is actually called upon to do."1 Surely if we know the nature of the demands made upon the machinery of government, we shall be better able to understand and judge the institutions which have evolved to meet these demands.

Let us take for example the situation posed by the development of radio. It would be unthinkable, most of us will agree, to allow everyone in New York City to erect a radio station, for the very obvious reason that if there are more radio stations operating at the same time than there are wave-length frequencies reception would be impossible. Thus government is called upon to devise some means of regulating radio stations to insure reception. But how, actually, is this to be done? Congress has sought to meet the situation by creating the Federal Communications Commission and empowering it "to regulate interstate and foreign commerce in communications by wire and radio, so as to make available, so far as possible to all of the people of the United States a rapid, efficient, nation-wide, and world-wide wire and communications service with adequate facilities at reasonable rates."2 In prescribing the general policy to be followed by the Federal Communications Commission, Congress provided that the Commission shall license radio stations that will best serve the public interest, and that the agency shall evolve fair and equitable methods of determining which of the competing applicants for a broadcasting license will best serve the public interest. In other words, while indicating the general lines of policy to guide the Federal Communications Commission, Congress has

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1
Felix Frankfurter: The Public and Its Government ( New Haven, 1930), p.7.
2
Public Act 416, 73d Congress, June 19, 1934.

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