104 Harv. L. Rev. 525 (1990-1991)
Metro Broadcasting, Inc. v. FCC: Regrouping in Singular Times

handle is hein.journals/hlr104 and id is 543 raw text is: COMMENT

METRO BROADCASTING, INC. V. FCC:
REGROUPING IN SINGULAR TIMES
Patricia J. Williams*
The recent Supreme Court decision in Metro Broadcasting, Inc.
v. FCC,1 which upheld limited preference programs to increase the
number of minority owners of broadcast stations, was Justice Bren-
nan's last majority opinion before his retirement. Because his depar-
ture signals a significant shift in the balance of power on the Court,
some might perceive this case as the last hurrah of a dying liberal
order. I believe, however, that this case represents an important
element in a schema of vital civil guarantees that must be maintained
and even expanded. This Comment assesses the significance of Metro
Broadcasting not merely as a nostalgic look backward, but also as
the vehicle for greater comprehension of the significance of and ne-
cessity for group claims within our legal system. In addition, this
Comment considers the costs of pitting individual rights against group
interests at a moment in our history when such groupings as race and
class intersect so that race increasingly defines class and the property
interests of large numbers of white individuals are understood to be
in irreconcilable tension with the collective dispossession of large num-
bers of people of color.
I. THE REAL ISSUES AT STAKE
One of the major issues in Metro Broadcasting was whether and
to what extent the FCC's desire to promote racial and ethnic pluralism
in programming is served by its choice to diversify broadcast owner-
ship. Applying a standard of review that required the FCC's diversity
program to be substantially related to an important governmental
interest,2 the majority held that broadcast diversity was such an in-
terest.3 According to the majority, although no necessary connection
exists between ownership and diverse programming, congressional and
FCC findings strongly suggested that diversity would be promoted by
increasing the representation of groups currently underrepresented
* Associate Professor, University of Wisconsin School of Law. With thanks to my friends
Jerome Culp, Sarah Krakoff, Michael Peirce, and Richard Perry for their lively, wise, and
generous inspiration.
I I1o S. Ct. 2997 4990).
2 See id. at 3008-09.
3 See id. at 3oo.

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