Guide to Federal Records

Records of the Federal Communications Commission [FCC]

(Record Group 173)
1875-1988 (bulk 1910-79)

OVERVIEW OF RECORDS LOCATIONS

Table of Contents

  • 173.1 ADMINISTRATIVE HISTORY
  • 173.2 RECORDS OF THE RADIO SERVICE AND THE RADIO DIVISION 1910-34
  • 173.3 RECORDS OF THE INTERSTATE COMMERCE COMMISSION (ICC) 1907-34
  • 173.4 RECORDS OF THE FEDERAL RADIO COMMISSION 1927-34
  • 173.5 GENERAL RECORDS OF THE FCC 1934-71
  • 173.6 RECORDS OF THE OFFICE OF THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR 1927-71
  • 173.7 RECORDS OF THE OFFICE OF THE CHIEF ACCOUNTANT 1900-49
  • 173.8 RECORDS OF THE OFFICE OF CHIEF ENGINEER 1875-1967
  • 173.9 RECORDS OF THE COMMON CARRIER BUREAU 1914-70
  • 173.10 RECORDS OF THE BROADCAST BUREAU 1937-73
  • 173.10.1 General records
  • 173.10.2 Records of the Technical and Allocations Branch, Broadcast Facilities Division
  • 173.10.3 Records of the Research Branch, Research and Education Division
  • 173.11 RECORDS OF THE RADIO INTELLIGENCE DIVISION 1940-47
  • 173.12 RECORDS OF FIELD OFFICES 1950-52
  • 173.13 CARTOGRAPHIC RECORDS (GENERAL) 1932-42
  • 173.14 MOTION PICTURES (GENERAL)
  • 173.15 VIDEO RECORDINGS (GENERAL)
  • 173.16 SOUND RECORDINGS (GENERAL)
  • 173.17 STILL PICTURES (GENERAL) 1974-88

173.1 ADMINISTRATIVE HISTORY

Established: As an independent agency by the Communications Act, June 19, 1934 (48 Stat. 1064).

Predecessor Agencies:

  • Interstate Commerce Commission (regulation of telephone, telegraph, and cable companies, 1910-34)
  • Radio Service, Bureau of Navigation, Department of Commerce and Labor (1911-13)
  • Radio Service, Department of Commerce (1913-27)
  • Radio Division, Department of Commerce (1927-32, to Federal Radio Commission)
  • Department of State (licensing of submarine cable operations, 1921-34)
  • Federal Radio Commission (1927-34)

Functions: Regulates the charges and operating practices of common carriers engaged in interstate or foreign communications. Issues broadcasting licenses. Assigns broadcast frequencies. Classifies radio and television stations and prescribes the nature of their services. Enforces radio requirements for some classes of vessels.

Finding Aids: Albert W. Winthrop, comp., Preliminary Inventory of the Records of the Federal Communications Commission, PI 93 (1956); Forrest R. Holdcamper, comp., "Preliminary Inventory of the Records of the Federal Communications Commission: A Supplement to Preliminary Inventory No. 93," NC 131 (Sept. 1965); supplement in National Archives microfiche edition of preliminary inventories.

Related Records: Record copies of publications of the Federal Communications Commission and its predecessors in RG 287, Publications of the U.S. Government.

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173.2 RECORDS OF THE RADIO SERVICE AND THE RADIO DIVISION
1910-34

History: Radio Service, Bureau of Navigation, established in the Department of Commerce and Labor, July 1, 1911, by order of the Secretary, to implement the act of June 24, 1910 (36 Stat. 629) requiring radio equipment on passenger steamships. Transferred with the Bureau of Navigation to the Department of Commerce by the Department of Commerce Act (37 Stat. 736), March 4, 1913. Separated from the Bureau of Navigation, 1927, and became the Radio Division, Department of Commerce, with enhanced power to license radio operators, inspect stations, and monitor broadcast frequencies. Absorbed by the Federal Radio Commission pursuant to EO 5892, July 20, 1932.

Textual Records: Combined general correspondence files of the Radio Service, Radio Division, and Federal Radio Commission, on early radio regulation, 1910-34, with indexes, 1910-30. Correspondence of the Radio Division relating to complaints, station operations, administrative and technical matters, and the radio industry, 1929-32, with indexes, 1929-30. Correspondence of the Federal Radio Commission relating to applications for broadcast station licenses, 1928-32.

Motion Pictures (1 reel): Promotional film, Radio Station WIBO, Chicago, 1930. SEE ALSO 173.14.

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173.3 RECORDS OF THE INTERSTATE COMMERCE COMMISSION (ICC)
1907-34

History: Regulatory responsibility for telegraph, telephone, and cable companies engaged in interstate operations vested in the ICC by the Mann-Elkins (Interstate Commerce) Act, June 18, 1910 (36 Stat. 544), subsequently modified by EO 3513, July 9, 1921, which transferred to the Department of State the responsibility for advising the President on the granting of licenses to submarine cable operators. ICC functions transferred to FCC by the Communications Act of 1934. State Department responsibilities transferred by EO 6779, June 30, 1934.

Textual Records: Regulations, 1912-32. "Formal docketed," 1912- 32, "finance," 1921-34, and "valuation," 1918-27, case files. Records relating to depreciation of telephone, telegraph, and cable properties, 1921-34. Minutes of meetings of the Engineering Board of the Bureau of Valuation, 1919-20. Records relating to the Western Union Telegraph Company, 1907-31; and to the Mackay Companies Land Line System, 1919-28. Records of the Chief Examiner of Accounts relating to corporate acquisitions by American Telephone and Telegraph, 1913-29.

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173.4 RECORDS OF THE FEDERAL RADIO COMMISSION
1927-34

History: Established as an independent agency by act of February 23, 1927 (44 Stat. 1162) to regulate the broadcast industry, with authority to license stations, allocate frequencies, and control power usage. Absorbed, pursuant to EO 5892, July 20, 1932, functions, records, and personnel of the Radio Division, Department of Commerce. Abolished, 1934. SEE 173.1.

Textual Records: Microfilm copy of minutes, 1927-34 (8 rolls). Docketed case files, 1927-34.General orders, 1927-31. Decisions concerning construction permits for new stations and modifications of broadcast licenses, 1929-34.

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173.5 GENERAL RECORDS OF THE FCC
1934-79

History: Commission members initially organized into three subcommissions, styled divisions (Radio, Telephone, and Telegraph Divisions). Divisional structure of commission abolished November 15, 1937, with FCC thereafter functioning as a single unit.

Textual Records: Minutes of Federal Radio Commission and FCC meetings and hearings, 1928-70. Microfilm copy of minutes of FCC meetings, 1934-71 (395 rolls). Docketed case files of the FCC, 1934-79 (4,281 ft.) Orders, 1934-39. Histories of World War II and Korean War activities of the FCC, 1948-52. Records of a special investigation of companies engaged in interstate telephone communications conducted under a joint resolution of the Congress, 1936. Exhibits presented by the National Association of Broadcasters in a hearing on the Communications Act, October 1934. Records of the Network Study Staff, Network Study Committee, consisting of correspondence, questionnaires, and program logs of the Broadcast Network Survey, 1956-57. Deleted auxiliary broadcast station history cards, 1959-63. Technical information conference files, 1946-50. Records relating to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), United Nations, including administrative council files, 1957-61, 1972-74; circular letters, 1969-70; International Frequency Registration Board (IFRB) circulars, 1971-74; and treaty and conference files, 1972-75. Records relating to the International Radio Consultative Committee (CCIR), 1963-67. Correspondence relating to U.S. directional antenna pattern interference problems with Canada, Mexico, and Cuba, 1956-70. Annual reports by telephone companies on FCC Form M, 1970-79. Annual reports by wire telegraph, ocean cable, and radio-telegraph carriers on FCC Form O&R, 1971-79. Records relating to a survey of radio use in the United States (1940-47), 1950-52. Records relating to the Airspace Panel, Air Coordinating Committee, 1947-57.

Specific Restrictions: As specified by the FCC, no one may examine the microfilm copies of the formal official minutes of the FCC bearing security or other classification mark or be given information from them or copies of them except by permission of the FCC.

Motion Pictures (4 items): Exhibits submitted in evidence relating to cases heard and decided by the FCC, concerning petitions, complaints, or FCC motions, chiefly involving broadcasting stations and pertaining to such matters as rates, facilities, the quality of services, corporate organizations, and ownership transfers, 1953-68. SEE ALSO 173.14.

Video Recordings (10 items): Exhibit submitted in evidence and relating to a case involving Danville Community Antenna Systems, Inc. (docket number 16865), 1968.

Sound Recordings (415 items): Exhibits submitted in evidence relating to cases heard and decided by the FCC, concerning petitions, complaints, or FCC motions, chiefly involving telephone, telegraph, cable, and radio broadcasting companies and pertaining to such matters as rates, facilities, the quality of services, corporate organizations, assignments of radio frequencies, and ownership transfers, 1936-65. SEE ALSO 173.16.

Photographs (995 images): Collected as part of a survey of radio use in the United States and illustrating radio use, the impact of radio technology on the transportation industry, and radio celebrities (1908-47), 1950-52. SEE ALSO 173.17.

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173.6 RECORDS OF THE OFFICE OF THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
1927-71

Textual Records: General correspondence, 1927-71. Correspondence of the FCC Chairman, 1941-71. Public reactions to Chairman Newton R. Minnow's criticisms of network television, 1961.

Sound Recordings (131 items): False claims for medical products and cures, from the general correspondence of the Executive Director, 1933-45. SEE ALSO 173.16.

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173.7 RECORDS OF THE OFFICE OF THE CHIEF ACCOUNTANT
1900-49

History: Established as the Accounting, Statistical, and Tariff Department in October 1934. Acquired the fiscal records of predecessor agencies, relating to wire and wireless communications. Name changed to Accounting Department in 1944, to Bureau of Accounts, May 12, 1948, and to Office of the Chief Accountant, March 3, 1950. Abolished October 31, 1955, and accounting functions integrated into the operating bureaus. Accounting Systems Division assigned to the Common Carrier Bureau and Economics Division to the Broadcast Bureau.

Textual Records: Completed questionnaires (statistical circulars) from communications common carriers that relate to company histories, corporate relationships, fiscal matters, and operations, 1934-49. Financial summary data for telephone and telegraph carriers, 1920-48. Correspondence relating to the acquisition of physical plant by telephone companies, 1921-34. Records relating to the acquisition and disposal of physical plant by the Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Company, 1900-37. Records relating to an original cost basis accounting study of American Telephone and Telegraph, 1937-44.

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173.8 RECORDS OF THE OFFICE OF CHIEF ENGINEER
1875-1967

History: Initial organization of the FCC in 1934 included Engineering Department, with responsibility for engineering phases of broadcast licensing, common carrier regulation, regulation of special services, supervision of field staff, and technical information engineering and research, including frequency allocation and treaty negotiation. Department redesignated Bureau of Engineering, May 12, 1948. Redesignated Office of Chief Engineer, April 3, 1950, concurrently with separation of common carrier functions as Common Carrier Bureau. Broadcast licensing functions separated from Office of Chief Engineer as Broadcast Bureau, July 31, 1950. Amateur radio, marine radio and safety, and public safety and special services functions consolidated as the Safety and Special Radio Services Bureau, June 4, 1951. Field Engineering and Monitoring Division made a separate bureau, March 2, 1952. Office of Chief Engineer redesignated Office of Science and Technology, May 1, 1979, and Office of Engineering and Technology, 1988. Functions include research, testing and approval of experimental radio equipment, frequency allocation, and treaty negotiation.

Textual Records: North American Regional Broadcast Agreement (NARBA) file, 1939-65. FCC frequency allocation records, 1928-50. Treaty and conference records, 1875-1967.

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173.9 RECORDS OF THE COMMON CARRIER BUREAU
1914-70

History: Common carrier regulation initially assigned to Engineer Department, 1934. Separately denominated Common Carrier Branch under Engineering Department by 1947. Engineering Department became Bureau of Engineering, May 12, 1948, with former Common Carrier Branch redesignated Common Carrier Division. Common Carrier Division separated from Bureau of Engineering (which became Office of Chief Engineer) and designated Common Carrier Bureau, April 3, 1950, with regulatory responsibility for interstate and international common carrier communications (initially telephone, telegraph, and radio, with subsequent addition of satellite communications).

Textual Records: Annual financial reports of communications common carriers, 1914-70, with an index, 1914-45.

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173.10 RECORDS OF THE BROADCAST BUREAU
1937-73

History: Responsibility for engineering phases of broadcast licensing initially assigned to Engineer Department, 1934. Separately denominated Broadcast Branch under Engineering Department by 1947. Engineering Department became Bureau of Engineering, May 12, 1948, with former Broadcast Branch divided into FM (Frequency Modulation) Broadcast Division, Television Broadcast Division, and Standard Broadcast Division. Bureau of Engineering redesignated Office of Chief Engineer, April 3, 1950. Broadcast divisions separated from Office of Chief Engineer and reconstituted as Broadcast Bureau, June 4, 1951, with responsibility for regulation of broadcasting activity. Acquired licensing function from Bureau of the Secretary, 1952. Consolidated with Cable Television Bureau (which had been established in January 1970) to form Mass Media Bureau, November 30, 1982.

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173.10.1 General records

Textual Records: Correspondence and other records relating to the administration, finances, and operations of broadcasting stations and networks, 1939-50. Annual financial reports of broadcasting stations, 1937-71.

Specific Restrictions: As specified by the FCC, the annual financial reports filed by licensees and permittees of standard, FM, television, and international broadcast stations with the FCC in accordance with section 0.417 of the FCC Rules and Regulations are not open to public inspection unless special permission is granted by the FCC upon written request describing in detail the documents to be inspected and the reasons therefor.

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173.10.2 Records of the Technical and Allocations Branch,
Broadcast Facilities Division

Textual Records: Interference case files, 1954-60. Reports and correspondence relating to field measurement data for FM and television stations, 1941-59. Reports pertaining to stratovision flight tests, 1946-69. Records relating to the development of FM multiplex (stereo) broadcast stations, 1957-59; development of educational television, 1959-60; and development of Community Antenna Television (CATV), translators, and Ultra High Frequency (UHF) boosters, 1950-64. Records relating to synchronous booster transmitter operation of broadcast stations WINX, Washington, DC, and WBAL, Baltimore, MD, 1940-51; to compatible single-sideband broadcast transmission experimental stations, 1958-61; to experimental subscription television stations, 1949-57; and to closed experimental and developmental broadcast stations, 1938- 65; Records relating to the history of color television, 1941-51; history of the development of television, 1938-65; and history of theater television, 1948-49.

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173.10.3 Records of the Research Branch, Research and Education
Division

Textual Records: Questionnaires for the 1966 political broadcasting survey, 1966-67. Correspondence and reports concerning the 1972 political broadcasting survey, 1964-73.

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173.11 RECORDS OF THE RADIO INTELLIGENCE DIVISION
1940-47

History: Established July 1, 1940, as the National Defense Operations Section of the Field Division to investigate and monitor clandestine wireless operations in the United States and its possessions and to train military personnel and intelligence agents in monitoring techniques. Discontinued in 1946.

Textual Records: Subject-classified general file, 1942-45. Reports, correspondence, and other records relating to congressional investigations of the FCC and the attack on Pearl Harbor and to the security classification of records, 1942-46. Files of George E. Sterling, Chief of the Division, 1940-47. Records relating to clandestine stations, intercepted radio transmissions, and cooperation with British and Canadian security organizations, 1940-45.

Maps (52 items): Hydrographic Office tracking charts annotated with dots to show locations of SOS reports and submarine attack sites along the U.S. coasts and in the Caribbean, 1942 (5 items). Diagrams showing the Japanese Navy communications net (28 items) and the German communications net in Europe (8 items), 1942-43. Charts showing German clandestine circuits monitored at North Scituate, RI, 1943 (3 items). World chart and papers relating to American Telephone and Telegraph circuits and censorship instructions, 1942 (3 items). Master call list diagrams, 1943 (4 items). Unidentified chart showing signals converging on a site north of the Spanish coast, 1943 (1 item). SEE ALSO 173.12.

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173.12 RECORDS OF FIELD OFFICES
1950-52

Textual Records (in San Francisco): Records of the San Francisco Field Office including affidavits, clippings, letters, memorandums, pleadings, and telegrams, 1950-52.

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173.13 CARTOGRAPHIC RECORDS (GENERAL)
1932-42

Maps of the United States, 1932 and 1937, and of Cuba, 1942, showing commercial aviation radio stations, aeronautical stations, and call letters.

SEE Maps UNDER 173.11.

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173.14 MOTION PICTURES (GENERAL)

SEE UNDER 173.2 and 173.5.

173.15 VIDEO RECORDINGS (GENERAL)

SEE UNDER 173.5.

173.16 SOUND RECORDINGS (GENERAL)

SEE UNDER 173.5 and 173.6.

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173.17 STILL PICTURES (GENERAL)
1974-88

Photographs: FCC commissioners and officials, 1974-87 (CM, 776 images). FCC events and activities, 1981-88 (EV, 355 images). FCC facilities, 1987-88 (FC, 98 images).

Photographic Prints: Documenting renovations of FCC facilities, 1985-87 (RP, 118 images).

SEE Photographs UNDER 173.5.


Bibliographic note: Web version based on Guide to Federal Records in the National Archives of the United States. Compiled by Robert B. Matchette et al. Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Administration, 1995.
3 volumes, 2428 pages.

Ordering information

This Web version is updated from time to time to include records processed since 1995.


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