MR. JUSTICE FRANKFURTER delivered the opinion of the Court.
The Mackay Radio and Telegraph Co. (Mackay) provides radiotelegraph service between the United States and a number of foreign countries. Over the opposition of RCA Communications, Inc. (RCAC), which provides
The Commission found that competition, that is, duplication of radiotelegraph facilities, would not impair the ability of the existing radio carrier, RCAC, and cable carriers to render adequate service. More facilities are at present authorized than are necessary to handle the present and expected volume of telegraph traffic under normal operating conditions, but Mackay's proposed service would be adequate and would not require substantial new investment. For such reasons the Commission concluded that competition was "reasonably feasible." In addition, although it did "not appear that Mackay's proposed service to each of the points at issue will result in lower rates or speedier service, or will otherwise be superior to or more comprehensive than the service now available via RCAC," the proposed service would be superior to that now provided by Mackay itself and its affiliated
We granted certiorari because this case, the first in which the grant of duplicate radiotelegraph circuits has been challenged in the courts, presents an issue of primary importance in authorization, under the Federal Communications Act of 1934, of international radiotelegraph circuits. 345 U.S. 902.
With the chaotic scramble for domestic air space that developed soon after the First World War, Congress recognized the need for a more orderly development of the air waves than had been achieved under prior legislation.
Congress did not purport to transfer its legislative power to the unbounded discretion of the regulatory body. In choosing among applicants, the Commission was to be guided by the "public interest, convenience, or necessity," a criterion we held not to be too indefinite for fair enforcement. New York Central Securities Corp. v. United States, 287 U.S. 12. The statutory standard no doubt leaves wide discretion and calls for imaginative interpretation. Not a standard that lends itself to application with exactitude, it expresses a policy, born of years of unhappy trial and error, that is "as concrete as the complicated factors for judgment in such a field of delegated authority permit." Federal Communications Comm'n v. Pottsville Broadcasting Co., 309 U.S. 134, 138.
Congress might have made administrative decision to license not reviewable. Although it is not suggested—or implied by the grant of power to review—that Congress could not have reserved to itself or to the Commission final designation of those who would be permitted to utilize the air waves, precious as they have become with technological advance, it has not done so. On the other hand, the scope of this Court's duty to review administrative determinations under the Federal Communications Act of 1934, 48 Stat. 1064, as amended, 47 U. S. C. § 151 et seq.,
In this case, the Court of Appeals has ruled that the Commission was guided by a misinterpretation of national policy, in that it thought that the maintenance of competition is in itself a sufficient goal of federal communications policy so as to make it in the public interest to authorize a license merely because competition, i. e., duplication of existing facilities, was "reasonably feasible." RCAC relies on the holding of the Court of Appeals that the Commission must decide, in the circumstances of the application, that competition is not merely feasible but beneficial.
The Commission has not in this case clearly indicated even that its own experience, entirely apart from the tangible demonstration of benefit for which RCAC contends, leads it to conclude that competition is here desirable. It seems to have relied almost entirely on its interpretation of national policy. Since the Commission professed to dispose of the case merely upon its view of a principle which it derived from the statute and did not base its conclusion on matters within its own special competence, it is for us to determine what the governing principle is. Cf. Federal Radio Comm'n v. Nelson Bros. Co., 289 U.S. 266, 276.
That there is a national policy favoring competition cannot be maintained today without careful qualification.
Prohibitory legislation like the Sherman Law, defining the area within which "competition" may have full play, of course loses its effectiveness as the practical limitations increase; as such considerations severely limit the number of separate enterprises that can efficiently, or conveniently, exist, the need for careful qualification of the scope of competition becomes manifest. Surely it cannot be said in these situations that competition is of itself a national policy. To do so would disregard not only those areas of economic activity so long committed to government monopoly as no longer to be thought open to competition, such as the post office, cf., e. g., 17 Stat. 292 (criminal offense to establish unauthorized post office; provision since superseded), and those areas, loosely spoken of as natural monopolies or—more broadly—public utilities, in which active regulation has been found necessary to compensate for the inability of competition to provide adequate regulation. It would most strikingly disregard areas where policy has shifted from one of prohibiting restraints on competition to one of providing relief from the rigors of competition, as has been true of railroads. Compare, e. g., United States v. Trans-Missouri Freight Assn., 166 U.S. 290, and United States v. Joint Traffic Assn., 171 U.S. 505, with the Transportation Act of 1920, 41 Stat. 456, 480; Consolidation of Railroads, 63 I. C. C. 455.
Federal legislation affecting railroads is a familiar but far from unique example of those many areas of economic
Of course, the fact that there is substantial regulation does not preclude the regulatory agency from drawing on competition for complementary or auxiliary support. Satisfactory accommodation of the peculiarities of individual industries to the demands of the public interest necessarily requires in each case a blend of private forces
To say that national policy without more suffices for authorization of a competing carrier wherever competition is reasonably feasible would authorize the Commission to abdicate what would seem to us one of the primary duties imposed on it by Congress. And since we read the opinion of the Commission as saying precisely that, we think the case must be remanded for its reconsideration. We therefore do not say that authorization of Mackay under all the relevant circumstances, including the significance the Commission may rightly attribute to the facts on the basis of its experience, may not be in the public interest.
In reaching a conclusion that duplicating authorizations are in the public interest wherever competition is reasonably feasible, the Commission is not required to make specific findings of tangible benefit. It is not required to grant authorizations only if there is a demonstration of facts indicating immediate benefit to the public. To restrict the Commission's action to cases in which tangible evidence appropriate for judicial determination is available would disregard a major reason for the creation of administrative agencies, better equipped as they are for weighing intangibles "by specialization, by insight gained through experience, and by more flexible procedure." Far East Conf. v. United States, 342 U.S. 570, 575. In the nature of things, the possible benefits of competition do not lend themselves to detailed forecast,
RCAC asks us to uphold the Court of Appeals decision on another ground, that the grant of authorization to Mackay would violate § 314 of the Communications Act, which forbids common ownership, control or operation of radio and cable in international communication whose purpose or effect may be substantially to lessen competition, restrain commerce or unlawfully to create a monopoly. We cannot agree. There has been in recent years a considerable shift of international telegraph traffic from cable to radio, a shift strongly accentuated in some countries, including Portugal and The Netherlands, where the overseas correspondent of American companies is a government-controlled monopoly which strongly advocates radio transmission. RCAC, in the two instances before us, is the beneficiary of this discrimination against cable transmission; with negligible exception, it has a monopoly of radio traffic to these countries. In the light of these circumstances, we think the Commission was justified in finding that the grant of Mackay's authorization would increase, rather than decrease, competition. Although it may be true that the relationship of Mackay to Commercial is such that there is, and would be, no competition between them, we think the Commission was entitled to look at the entire competitive scene and not confine itself
RCAC's arguments based on comparable language in the Clayton Act and on decisions under that Act and under the Sherman Law cannot, we think, be sustained. What may substantially lessen competition in those areas where competition is the main reliance for regulation of the market cannot be automatically transplanted to areas in which active regulation is entrusted to an administrative agency; for reasons we have indicated above, what competition is and should be in such areas must be read in the light of the special considerations that have influenced Congress to make specific provision for the particular industry. We therefore think that the Commission's determination that the grant of authorization to Mackay would not decrease competition, in the special sense in which that word is to be used in this context, is supported by the findings and satisfies the requirements of § 314.
For the reasons we have indicated, the judgment of the Court of Appeals is vacated and the case is remanded to that court with instructions to remand it to the Federal Communications Commission for such disposition as is open under this opinion.
It is so ordered.
MR. JUSTICE BLACK is of the opinion that the Commission's findings have substantial evidential support, that the findings adequately support the Commission's
MR. JUSTICE REED and MR. JUSTICE JACKSON took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.
MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS, dissenting.
I agree with the Court that it is necessary under the Federal Communications Act to establish that the licensing of a competitive service offers a reasonable expectation of some beneficial effect, measured by the public interest. That was indeed the view of the Court of Appeals. But on this record the facts are that
I therefore agree with Judge Edgerton's opinion for the Court of Appeals (91 U. S. App. D. C. 289, 201 F.2d 694) that on this showing the Commission acted without authority and that its order should be set aside. On the record before us the facts are so unequivocal that there is no apparent way for the Commission to meet the standard approved both here and below. There is therefore no occasion for a remand. I would affirm the judgment below.
"From 1945 until the decision in the present case (1951) the Commission granted a number of duplicating circuits." (Citations and footnotes omitted.)