Banzhaf, et al. v. Federal Communications Commission, et al.

The petitioner claimed that smoking advertisements broadcasted on a televisions station, WCBS, implicitly suggested that smoking was a "desirable, manly and a necessary part of a rich full life." According the applicant, WCBS's refusal to provide equal time for presentation of important controversial health issues related to cigarette smoking violated the fairness doctrine of the Federal Communication Commission (FCC). The FCC agreed with the applicant based on government reports and a federal law on labeling and advertising, all of which suggested that normal use of tobacco products could be hazardous to the user's health. The FCC required the respondent to provide significant broadcast time for presenting the case against cigarette smoking. On appeal, WCBS and a number of intervenors claimed that the FCC's decision was in error, among other reasons, because the federal law on labeling and advertising preempted the FCC's standing to regulate broadcasts of tobacco product advertisements and because the ruling violated the station's free speech rights under the Constitution. The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit affirmed the FCC's ruling and found that existing broadcasts were inadequate to inform the public of the extent of the harms of cigarette smoking.