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Lessig, Trump & Clinton beg question: is FCC Equal Time Law outdated or under-enforced?

Democratic presidential candidate Lawrence Lessig speaks on stage at the New Hampshire Democratic Party State Convention on September 19, 2015.
Scott Eisen/Getty Images
Democratic presidential candidate Lawrence Lessig speaks on stage at the New Hampshire Democratic Party State Convention on September 19, 2015.

Democratic presidential hopeful Lawrence Lessig is asking NBC stations for ‘equal time’ following Hillary Clinton’s October 3rd appearance on Saturday Night Live.

Harvard law professor and democratic presidential hopeful Lawrence Lessig is asking NBC stations for ‘equal time’ following Hillary Clinton’s October 3rd appearance as Val-the-bartender on Saturday Night Live.

It’s thanks to a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rule dating back to 1934 and stipulating that actively campaigning candidates can request ‘equal time’ when broadcast stations invite a rival on air.

In response to Lessig’s request, NBC has asked him to prove he’s a “legally qualified candidate.” Ouch. But Lessig’s case may be bolstered by the recent announcement that SNL has invited Donald Trump to host the 90-minute show November 7th, which when compared to Clinton’s 3-minute act, is raising a few eyebrows.

Technically, the FCC rule doesn’t apply to SNL because the show doesn’t fall within the categories outlined by the original rule. But it does raise a larger question about which candidates get air time and what impact it has on their campaigns.

Should there be an equal time rule in effect, or should popular demand drive air time?

Guests:

Meredith McGehee, Policy Director at the Campaign Legal Center, a Washington D.C.-based nonpartisan, nonprofit organization focused on campaign finance & voting rights

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