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NETWORK PROJECT v. CORPORATION

July 23, 1975

NETWORK PROJECT et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
CORPORATION FOR PUBLIC BROADCASTING et al., Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: CORCORAN

 CORCORAN, District Judge.

 In this action the plaintiffs seek declaratory and injunctive relief and damages for alleged violations of their rights under the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 (the Act), as amended, 47 U.S.C. § 396 et seq. (1970), and under the First and Fifth Amendments to the Constitution. For reasons set out below, the Court concludes that the case against the individual defendants is moot; that the plaintiffs have no implied private right of action under the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967; and that the complaint is otherwise jurisdictionally defective.

 I

 The Parties

 The plaintiffs are: (1) the Network Project, an unincorporated membership organization whose membership allegedly includes viewers of noncommercial educational television; (2) the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), many of whose members are alleged to be regular viewers of noncommercial educational television; (3) 11 individuals who claim to be viewers of noncommercial educational television; and (4) three individuals, viz., Paul Jacobs, Saul Landau and John Kuney, who claim to have written, produced or directed programs for noncommercial educational television.

 The defendants are: (1) the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB); (2) the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS); and (3) Clay T. Whitehead and Patrick J. Buchanan (the federal defendants).

 CPB is a nonprofit corporation, incorporated under the laws of the District of Columbia and established pursuant to the Act. The CPB was established to facilitate the development of educational broadcasting, to assist in the development of systems of interconnection for the distribution of educational television and radio programs and to engage in those activities in ways that will most effectively assure the maximum freedom of noncommercial educational systems and stations from interference. 47 U.S.C. § 396(g)(1)(A)-(D).

 PBS is a nonprofit membership corporation organized under the laws of the District of Columbia. Its membership consists of the licensees of noncommercial educational television stations. The purpose of PBS, according to its Articles of Incorporation, is to arrange for and provide interconnection facilities for the distribution of noncommercial broadcast programs and to generally assist and support noncommercial broadcasting pursuant to the Public Broadcasting Act. *fn1" The Act provides that CPB will facilitate the establishment of one or more interconnection systems; it does not however provide specifically for PBS'S existence.

 Clay T. Whitehead, one of the federal defendants, is the former Director of the Office of Telecommunications Policy (OTP), a part of the Executive Office of the President, established pursuant to the President's Reorganization Plan No. 1 of 1970, 3 C.F.R. 1066 (1966-1970 Comp.). He resigned from his position effective September 15, 1974, after commencement of this action. The responsibilities of the Director of OTP are, (and were) inter alia, to serve as the President's principal adviser on telecommunications, assure effective communication of the views of the Executive Branch on telecommunications policy to Congress and to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and to coordinate telecommunications activities of the Executive Branch. Executive Order No. 11556, September 4, 1970.

 Patrick J. Buchanan, the other federal defendant, is a former Special Consultant to the President. He resigned effective November 15, 1974, after the commencement of this suit. He gave advice and counsel to the President on public broadcasting as part of his duties as Special Consultant.

 II

 Pleadings

 The plaintiffs complain that the defendants have acted in violation of the Public Broadcasting Act and the First and Fifth Amendments.

 They cite defendants Whitehead and Buchanan for allegedly attempting to influence votes by the CPB Board of Directors, to cause the CPB to cease funding controversial public affairs programming, and to have certain educational network broadcasters removed from the air.

 The plaintiffs also allege that CPB and PBS acted illegally in that they engaged in the practices of censoring entire programs, or parts thereof, prior to distribution to local stations; prescreening and allowing others to prescreen programs produced for noncommercial educational television prior to distribution; issuing warnings to -- "flagging" -- local stations of program content considered by them to be controversial; requiring detailed descriptions of program content in applications for funding; and allowing the federal defendants (Whitehead and Buchanan) to affect program content. In addition, plaintiffs charge violations of the Act by CPB in that CPB allegedly participates illegally in programming and operation of a network. Finally, they charge that the CPB Board of Directors is illegally constituted.

 CPB and PBS and the federal defendants have each moved to dismiss the action on various grounds. Consideration of the various arguments of the defendants follows.

 III

 Mootness As To The Federal Defendants

 As noted, the plaintiffs allege illegal activity on the part of the federal defendants Whitehead and Buchanan both as individuals and in their official capacities. On January 16, 1975, the federal defendants filed a supplemental memorandum in support of their motion to dismiss which added the additional ground that since Whitehead and Buchanan no longer occupy official positions with the executive office the claims against them are moot. The Court agrees.

 The federal courts are limited to the resolution of actual cases and controversies by Article III of the Constitution. There must be "concrete legal issues, presented in actual cases, not abstractions." Golden v. Zwickler, 394 U.S. 103, 108, 89 S. Ct. 956, 959, 22 L. Ed. 2d 113 (1969). If it is determined at any stage of the proceeding that a case was moot when initiated or became moot because of subsequent events, the Court is without jurisdiction because "[mootness] is a jurisdictional question." North Carolina v. Rice, 404 U.S. 244, 246, 92 S. Ct. 402, 30 L. Ed. 2d 413 (1971). Accord, People of State of California v. San Pablo & Tulane R. Co., 149 U.S. 308, 13 S. Ct. 876, 37 L. Ed. 747 (1893); State of Alabama ex rel. Baxley v. Woody, 473 F.2d 10 (5th Cir. 1973).

 We look first at the claims asserted against the federal defendants as individuals.

 It is clear that the declaratory and injunctive relief sought against these defendants relates to power which they possessed as government officials and that there is no basis now, after their resignations from office, for asserting that these individuals represent a threat to the ...


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