McGOWAN, Circuit Judge:
This appeal under the Communications Act, 47 U.S.C. § 402(b) (1), challenges the renewal by the Federal Communications Commission of the license of Sunbeam Television Corporation to operate a television station on Channel 7 in Miami, Florida. Appellant, Community Broadcasting Corporation, filed a mutually exclusive application for the license in question, necessitating a comparative hearing. The Examiner who conducted the hearing recommended renewal of Sunbeam's license, a result which was supported before the full Commission by its Broadcast Bureau. The Commission unanimously upheld the Examiner's recommendation. The principal issue described by us in this appeal relates to the scope of the Commission's discretion, in reckoning the licensee's broadcast experience, to take the fact of this licensee's operation of the station into account in a comparative hearing of its renewal application.
Sunbeam first applied for the license in 1953. Its application, together with those of three other applicants, was set for comparative hearing in 1954. Sunbeam was unsuccessful, but in 1959 the Commission reopened the record for further proceedings in which the Commission ultimately disqualified the other three applicants for misconduct in relation to the adjudicatory processes of the Commission. Biscayne Television Corp., 31 F.C.C. 237 (1961).
Sunbeam began operating the station on December 19, 1962. The following April 1 it filed its renewal application. On June 12, 1963, Community applied for the same license. The comparative hearing ordered by the Commission was held in January, 1964; and the Examiner's Initial Decision in favor of Sunbeam was issued July 30, 1964. In affirming this decision, the Commission regarded the two competitors as on even terms except in three relevant categories. These were area familiarity, integration of ownership and management, and broadcast experience. In respect of the first, a slight preference was accorded Community. A much stronger and overbalancing preference was believed by the Commission to be due Sunbeam in the matter of ownership-management integration. With respect to broadcast experience, the Commission noted that none of the people involved in Community had television operating experience. It pointed out that, in contrast, three of Sunbeam's stockholders (not including the lawyer referred to in Note 1, supra), holding a majority of its stock, had experience "in meeting the day-to-day operational problems of the very facility under consideration"; and, in summing up its weighing of Community's preference for area familiarity against Sunbeam's for ownership-management integration, the Commission remarked that area familiarity had less significance in a situation where, as here, 51 percent of Sunbeam's stock was held by three "long-term local residents who have acquired an insight into the programming needs
Community urges upon us that these references by the Commission to Sunbeam's broadcast experience deprive the comparative hearing of the essential quality of fairness. See Ashbacker Radio Corp. v. FCC, 326 U.S. 327, 66 S.Ct. 148, 90 L.Ed. 108 (1945). For purposes of this argument, it is not necessary to differentiate between the four months of Sunbeam's operations pursuant to the precise terms of its license, on the one hand, and the so-called hold-over period which continued until the resolution of the competing applications.
Community's first line of attack under Ashbacker is that Sunbeam possessed, in legal contemplation, no more than a temporary grant of interim operating authority pending the completion of the comparative hearing, and was not, therefore, a true licensee seeking renewal. This, so it is said, is the construction to be placed upon the Commission's limitation of Sunbeam's license to four months as distinct from the longer period available under the statute.
This is not, however, the construction which the Commission placed upon its own action when it took it. It then said in so many words that Sunbeam had, after hearing, been found to be a fully qualified applicant in all respects, and it awarded the license to it unconditionally — an award which, conceivably, Sunbeam might have received several years earlier had it not been for the sub rosa assaults upon the Commission's integrity by the three competing applicants. Any major television channel in Miami, Florida, is a vital facility in terms of the public interest. The Commission was, therefore, free to decide as a matter of policy that it was desirable for Sunbeam to face some honest competition without waiting three years; and there is, of course, nothing in the statute which prescribes that an initial grant shall be for one, twelve, or thirty-six months. For the period of the grant, whatever it may be, the licensee who has been found qualified is like any other, except in the knowledge that renewal must be accomplished at an earlier date.
In any event, the construction of Sunbeam's status pressed by Community has been rejected in the case of another licensee who received a four-months' grant under similar circumstances. South Florida Television Corp. v. FCC, 121 U.S.App.D.C. 293, 349 F.2d 971 (1965), cert. denied, 382 U.S. 987, 86 S.Ct. 541,
In the case presently before us, the Commission gave Sunbeam no credit for broadcast performance, as distinct from broadcast experience, and in this respect it could reasonably be maintained that South Florida has an a fortiori impact on our disposition of this appeal. Where a qualified applicant for a license has been compelled, by the moral short-comings of his original competitors and of public servants themselves, to spend 10 years in the quest, it is perhaps not arbitrary to suggest that, as against the new applicants who have been spared that frustrating and expensive experience, the Commission may take note of the fact — for it is nothing more — that the four-months licensee has actually been operating the station.
New applicants are, of course, free to seek the license at renewal time under our national policy of hoping at least that these enormously important public facilities are always in the best hands. But are these newcomers upon the scene, at least in the special circumstances shown by this record, entitled to claim that the Commission may not even take note of the fact that the licensee has been operating the station and has at least that much broadcast experience? Had it not been for Sunbeam, one of its less scrupulous competitors might have permanently won the prize. Certainly the failure of Sunbeam to persist in its decade-long battle would have meant that there would have been no one around either morally or technically qualified to continue the operation of this station when the iniquities of the original licensee were ultimately exposed. Are we to say that, in the light of these considerations, the Commission was without any power whatsoever to take this operation by Sunbeam into account as constituting broadcast experience?
We think the question answers itself, especially when we remind ourselves that it is the Commission which is the expert body created by Congress to regulate this industry. Ashbacker sharply illuminates our function to serve as a guardian of the basic fairness which should characterize the procedures by which the Commission makes its substantive determinations. We are called upon in this instance
What we have concluded thus far is that there is nothing in the statute, read in the light of Ashbacker, which prohibits the Commission from counting as broadcast experience Sunbeam's operations under the authority of the license; and we have expressed the view that, on this record at any rate, the Commission's action in so doing was not, without more, an abuse of its discretion resulting in an unacceptable unfairness to Community.
Community has also argued, however, that the Commission has violated its own rules. Even if it were proper to treat Sunbeam as an ordinary licensee for four months and to credit it with that period of experience, the Commission erred, so it is said, in taking cognizance also of the eight additional months in the hold-over period which followed upon the four months specified in the license and lasted until the record was closed in the comparative hearing. Community points in this regard to Section 1.62(a) of the Commission's Rules and Regulations, 47 C.F.R. § 1.62 (a) (1) (1965), which is as follows:
It argues that to take into account the hold-over operation as broadcast experience is to ignore the Rule's ban upon allowing "such operation [to] in any way affect" the Commission's disposition of the renewal application.
The hold-over period presently has a statutory foundation, first provided in 1946 in Section 9(b) of the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. § 1008(b), and specifically spelled out in 1952 by the addition of Section 307(d) to the Communications Act. Rule 1.62(a) since 1952 has reflected that fact, 17 Fed.Reg. 7290, but the origins of the Rule lie in an earlier time when this was not true. In 1938 the Commission had no explicit statutory authority to authorize a hold-over operation, but it did promulgate a rule in which it assumed for itself a discretion to grant a "temporary extension" of an expiring license pending the disposition of an application for renewal. This rule, however, had a proviso that "such temporary extension of license will in no wise affect or limit the action of the Commission with respect to any pending application or proceeding." 47 C.F.R. § 1.82 (1938).
Thus it would appear that, at a time when Congress had not yet acted expressly to provide for the continuation pendente lite of the license of a renewal applicant, the Commission was careful to admonish that a grant by it of this privilege was not to tie its hands or raise false hopes with respect to the eventual disposition it would make of the renewal application. In 1952 when the rule was rewritten to reflect the Congressional grant of hold-over authority, the language
The Commission at least has not construed its own rule as excluding consideration of the hold-over period for some purposes. In South Florida, it reversed its Examiner for refusing to allow the four-months licensee to put in evidence of its broadcast performance during the hold-over period; and, as noted earlier, it appeared to give that licensee credit for broadcast experience in respect of that same period of time. The Commission's Broadcast Bureau has, as described by the Examiner in South Florida, "taken the position that this rule was not intended to prevent an applicant for renewal from showing performance beyond the license period," although in that case the Bureau believed, and the Examiner agreed, that there should be a discretionary determination to cut it off after four months.
We think this is perhaps another case where an agency unnecessarily creates problems for itself and for us by failing to reexamine periodically the words used in its rules in the light of circumstances quite different from those in which the words were first employed. But, in the light of that history, we are not persuaded that the words of Rule 1.62(a) are to be taken as disabling the Commission completely from taking into account as broadcast experience Sunbeam's eight months of operation between the four months expressly awarded it and the time needed for the receipt of new applications and the holding of a comparative hearing. Without repeating the special considerations already detailed above with respect to Sunbeam, we are certainly not disposed to say that the construction which the Commission has given its own Rule in relation to this case has rendered its proceedings procedurally unfair.
Just prior to oral argument of this appeal before us, appellant filed a motion to remand the case to the Commission. The basis for the motion was that a Miami lawyer who is a director and 10% stockholder of Sunbeam had been indicted for mail fraud. But it clearly appears that the subject matter of this indictment is wholly unrelated to Sunbeam, and that the lawyer in question has stepped out as a director and sold his stock on terms which assure that he can resume his connection with Sunbeam only if he is cleared of the charges against him. Under these circumstances, and especially in view of the long delay to which Sunbeam has, through no fault of its own, been exposed in its quest for a license, we think a remand is not necessary. The motion is, accordingly, denied.