Saavy political campaigns saw Donald Trump’s November 7 “SNL” appearance as a golden opportunity to get their candidates front and center before American TV audiences at no charge. Under the 1934 Communications Act, TV and radio stations originating their own programming and permitting a legally qualified political candidate to use their station must “afford equal opportunities to all other such candidates for that office in the use of such broadcasting station…” The station affording the “equal time” rights cannot censor the equal use, so it cannot limit the ideas presented, or prevent advertisement in contrast to entertainment content. There are four exceptions to the equal time rule, namely use as a part of a newscast, news interview, documentary or on-the-spot coverage, like a presidential address or campaign debate. The other part of the law states the affording of time must be at the same rate charged for comparable use. This provision will likely allow campaigns to either get free time or discounted advertising time with the station.
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