The Communications Act of 1934 was passed on June 19, 1934, during the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt. The means of this Act was for the Government to regulate telephone, telegraph, radio and other broadcasting forms for the public. Through this Act, the United States Government demanded that those licensed to broadcast do so with the intent of, “public interest, convenience, and necessity.” coming directly from the Act (M.G.F 1935). The Communications Act of 1934 also created the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which replaced the Federal Radio Commission.
The Communications Act of 1934 is broken down into six main sections. The first section of this Act includes the creation of the FCC, along with the purpose of creating the Act. Quoted from the first section on the Communications Act of 1934, this section is “For the purpose of regulating interstate and foreign commerce in communication by wire and radio so as to make available, so far as possible, to all the people of the United States…” (United States, 1989). This meant that public information was going to be rapidly spread throughout the United States with the help of the new broadcasting standards implemented.
The second section of the Act deals with the common carrier regulations. This created a set of requirements providers had to abide by when providing telecommunication services, along with a competitive market between providers, making the costs of services lower for consumers. The third section pertains to radio communication and defining wired communication. This gave licensing rights to broadcasting stations from the government. Finally, the last three sections all deal with procedural provisions and penalties for controlled agencies if they do not follow their rules and regulations, as well as miscellaneous information to bring the Communications Act of 1934 to a close (M.G.F. 1935).
Hurwitz (1991) describes just how important the Communications Act of 1934 really is for America. He claims that the Act stayed around through the entire technology revolution, mostly in part to its flexibility. The Act gives power to the Federal Communications Commission, but in very loose terms. For example, the quote, “public interest, convenience, and necessity” has a very broad meaning, which allows them to expand on it, under reasonable terms. Not having a clear definition of this phrase caused courts and other officials to argue that it would be unconstitutional for the government to use its licensing power without a clearly defined definition (Brotman, 2017). This also means that the Act is not constricted in any way, which allowed the document to be amended if need. Creating this Act gave the government a basic outline for later acts to come such as the Telecommunications Act of 1996.
The Communications Act of 1934 played a significant role in American society with the communications networks expanding. While these networks expanded, the Federal Communications Commission’s influence expanded alongside. The largest role that the Communications Act of 1934 played on the American people was accessible media throughout the country, and the rapid spread of it through public broadcasting services, which were overlooked by the government. Lastly, it made media and news affordable to all people by creating competition between service providers, in an effort to not leave anyone out (Brotman, 2017).
Brotman, S. N. (2017). Revisiting the broadcast public interest standard in communications law and regulation. Retrieved December 07, 2017, from https://www.brookings.edu/research/revisiting-the-broadcast-public-interest-standard-in-communications-law-and-regulation/
Hurwitz, L. (1991). The Journal of American History, 77(4), 1469-1470. doi:10.2307/2078442
M. G. F. (1935). Communications Act of 1934. Virginia Law Review, 21(3), 318-325. doi:10.2307/1067097
United States. (1989). Compilation of the Communications Act of 1934 and related provisions of law: including Communications Act of 1934, Communications Satellite Act of 1962, selected provisions from the United States Code. Washington: U.S. G.P.O.: For sale by the Supt. of Docs., U.S. G.P.O.
Image Attribution: The images used in this post are in the Public Domain
Written by Max Hammond, 2017