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Twelve minutes and five seconds to be exact. That’s the amount of time being clocked by NBC over Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s screen time during his hosting gig on this past weekend’s Saturday Night Live.
On Monday, NBC affiliates throughout the nation are updating their political file with the FCC in compliance with the FCC’s “Equal Time” rule. As explained in our primer on the subject in advance of Trump’s appearance, if a broadcast station gives one candidate airtime in anything other than a newscast or news interview program, the other candidates shall be afforded equal opportunity. This potentially means that Trump’s rivals from Marco Rubio and Ben Carson to Lindsay Graham and George Pataki can request an equal opportunity to appear on-air for free to deliver their own message to voters.
The next week will be interesting to watch as the other Republican candidates will have seven days after Trump’s appearance to make equal opportunity demands upon NBC stations. Air time isn’t assured, as some stations could challenge whether Trump is a “legally-qualified” candidate under FCC rules. This is a potentially a touchy legal subject that could trigger litigation. On the other hand, few candidates in the past have really fought over the FCC’s “equal time” rule.
Other Republicans demanding time could also impact whether NBC decides to re-air the episode or any of its segments.
After Hilary Clinton appeared on Saturday Night Live on Oct. 3, NBC affiliates filed equal time notices with the FCC for her three minutes, 12 seconds of airtime. Her segment was re-aired on Oct. 24, leading to a second round of equal time notices. Fortunately for NBC, a couple of the candidates like Lincoln Chafee and Lawrence Lessig who then attempted to get equal time subsequently dropped out of the race.
In the meantime, here’s a look at the notice filed by one NBC affiliate based in Indiana today.
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