Donald Trump’s latest appearance hosting Saturday Night Live didn’t exactly win rave reviews, but it did come with a Trump bump in the ratings. Trump's 12-plus minutes of airtime also triggered the FCC’s equal-time rule, meaning NBC stations are obliged to offer equal airtime to his Republican competitors. Here’s NBC’s New York affiliate’s FCC notification:
“Donald Trump, a candidate for the Republican nomination for President in the 2016 national election, appeared without charge on NBC’s ‘Saturday Night Live’ for a total period of 12:05 (12 minutes and 5 seconds) commencing at 11:39:11 PM ET on Nov. 7 and ending at 1:01:01AM ET on Nov. 8, 2015.”
“The federal equal-time rule applies when a broadcast station gives air time to a candidate for office and the appearance doesn’t fall into one of several exempt categories: a newscast, interview, documentary or a live news event like a political convention,” the Wall Street Journal notes. Here’s more from the Journal on equal time:
A comedy sketch show like ‘SNL’ doesn’t obviously fall into any one of those groups. The FCC has never released an official opinion on whether the law applies to shows like ‘SNL,’ but NBC has assumed it does… The FCC rule lets qualified candidates get comparable air time on the same network in the same time slot. There’s no right to appear on the same show, so candidates couldn’t demand an “SNL” cameo of their own… The free air time is generally restricted to broadcast markets in places where candidates have been actively campaigning.
Trump’s 12 minutes and 5 seconds doesn’t seem like all that much airtime for a host of an hour-and-a-half variety show, but that’s another matter. When Hillary Clinton made a 3-plus minute appearance on the show earlier this year, NBC affiliates posted the same offer to her democratic competitors. And even that wasn't NBC's first equal-time rodeo. “After Al Sharpton hosted the NBC variety show in 2003, the campaign of Joseph Lieberman, a rival for the Democratic nomination, requested equal time,” Variety notes. “That led to an agreement in which some NBC stations aired footage of a Lieberman campaign event.” And everyone knows a Joe Lieberman-hosted campaign event circa 2003 was approximately as entertaining television as Saturday Night Live.