In recent weeks, with so many government officials looking to get messages out about the coronavirus pandemic, questions arise about what to do when political candidates appear on public service-type announcements — either free PSAs provided by the station or paid spots purchased by some governmental entity. While such announcements can be run by stations, if a legally qualified candidate personally appears in the spot (their recognizable voice in a radio ad or their voice or picture in a TV ad), stations need to note the advertising purchase in their FCC Online Public Inspection File, as these spots constitute a “use” by a candidate, and they can also give rise to equal opportunities by opposing candidates.
More than two weeks after Donald Trump’s performance on Saturday Night Live, NBC said John Kasich, Mike Huckabee, James Gilmore and Lindsey Graham each will get about 12 minutes of time to tout their candidacies during primetime on Friday and Saturday, and during this week’s Saturday Night Live.
NBC is proposing giving free airtime to campaigns on Nov. 27 and Nov. 28 after a number of Republican candidates requested it following Donald Trump’s hosting gig on Saturday Night Live. The network’s proposal is for each of the candidates who requested time to get a 12-minute slot between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. on Friday night and 12 minutes during the Saturday Night Live time period on Saturday night, according to a source with one of the campaigns, who did not want to be identified because negotiations are ongoing.
The Republicans say that Donald Trump’s appearance on Saturday Night Live entitles them to equal opportunity under the FCC’s rule.
Because of the FCC equal time rule, NBC could be put in a tough spot from one of Trump’s rivals for the Republican presidential nomination if the network follows through with plans it announced Tuesday to have Trump host Saturday Night Live on Nov. 7.
It’s political season, and somewhere, some on-air broadcast air personality is making the decision that they really want to change careers — and run for political office. Here’s a refresher on the issues that arise when that happens.
Now that we are in the political window, we’re doing a series on the basics of the FCC’s political broadcasting rules. On Monday, we covered lowest unit charges. Today’s topic is equal opportunities. Many think of this as a straight-forward issue — just requiring that you provide equal time to competing candidates. But the nuances are what makes equal opportunities much more complicated.
The commission has determined Anderson Cooper’s syndicated talk show qualifies as news and is thus exempt from obligations to giving political candidates equal air time.
From a First Amendment perspective, the Equal Time Rule is very much like the repealed Fairness Doctrine. It strips away broadcasters’ editorial discretion, forcing them to take people off the air they would rather not and putting people on the air they otherwise might not. And it’s discriminatory. It applies only to broadcasters. Let’s get rid of it.