In light of Donald Trump’s appearance on Saturday Night Live on Nov. 7, Republican rivals John Kasich and Lindsey Graham want free time on NBC.
As The Hollywood Reporter previously reported, NBC affiliates filed notices in the wake of Trump’s SNL appearance in compliance with a rule by the Federal Communications Commission rule that affords candidates equal opportunity to airtime if a broadcast station gives another candidate airtime in anything other than a newscast or news interview program. NBC counted Trump on air for 12 minutes and five seconds during its variety program.
Candidates had seven days after Trump’s appearance to make equal opportunity demands upon NBC stations. At least two — Kasich and Graham — have followed suit.
Attorneys for both candidates sent their requests last week.
Graham’s letter (see here) to WHO-TV in Iowa is most explicit. He wants to appear on the station for 12 minutes and five seconds just as Trump did.
As for Kasich, who is doing well enough in polls to be included in the top-tier debates, his letter (see here) doesn’t detail how much time he wants specifically, but asserts entitlement to equal opportunity “because Mr. Trump’s appearance on ‘Saturday Night Live’ is not exempt as a 1) bona fide newscast; 2) bona fide news interview; 3) bona fide news documentary; or 4) on-the-spot coverage of bona fide news events.”
Another important difference in Kasich’s letter is that the Ohio governor addresses NBC broadly. The letter is sent to Margaret Tobey, vp regulatory affairs at NBCUniversal as well as “NBC Affiliate Station Managers.”
Graham and Kasich both note that they are “legally qualified candidates,” which might not seem important until one considers that it raises a potential avenue of challenge by NBC. In fact, John Garziglia, a former attorney at the FCC, says he expects as much to happen. Graham is most specific about his bona fides, discussing how he has been appearing in events in Iowa and maintaining a staff presence. There still could be contention that he doesn’t have enough of a national presence to be a viable contender for the White House.
But all that depends on what NBC intends to do about the demands. THR has reached out to the general manager of WHO-TV and will update with any response.
In late October, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler was asked by reporters about the equal time issue. “The rules are pretty clear. Rules are rules,” he responded. “I hope that we have developed a reputation as folks who enforce the rules.”