The application of the First Amendment principles to broadcast communications is a complex problem that has challenged the Congress, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and constitutional scholars since the early days of broadcasting. Efforts to regulate radio communication confront unique problems not present in other forms of mass communication. Because of the finite nature of the radio spectrum, substantially more individuals want to broadcast than there are frequencies to allocate.
As a consequence, those who have the good fortune to receive a license are treated as trustees of a valuable public resource and have imposed upon them certain responsibilities to serve the public -- the viewer and the listener. These responsibilities were described by the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit when it stated:
A broadcaster has much in common with a newspaper publisher, but he is not in the same category in terms of public obligation imposed by law. A broadcaster seeks and is granted the free and exclusive use of a limited and valuable part of the public domain; when he accepts that franchise, it is burdened with enforceable public obligations. A newspaper can be operated at the whim or caprice of its owners; a broadcasting station cannot . . . [A] broadcast license is a public trust subject to termination for breach of duty.1
One of the conditions imposed on every licensee was first set forth in Section 315(a), the so-called equal time section, of the Communications Act of 1934:____________________