When word came out that Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump was hosting Saturday Night Live, many political wonks said this was a clear violation of the equal time rule. It’s not a law, but the Federal Communication Commission has a provision that says if a broadcaster provides air time to a political candidate, either for free or for a price, it must provide an equal opportunity to every other candidate. As we know, Donald Trump’s hosting gig took place over the weekend and for better or for worse, he got quite a platform from the show. (The show also got the ratings it was so blatantly after.)
But while SNL is a 90-minute show, The Donald was only on camera for a total of 12 minutes and five seconds. In the name of fairness and in accordance with the equal time rule, NBC is now obligated to offer exactly 12 minutes and five seconds of its air time to every other presidential candidate. Every local NBC affiliate posted this notice — an FCC requirement — acknowledging that they’d given Trump his time:
“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 November 7 and ending at 1:01:01AM ET on November 8, 2015.”
Now any candidates who want an equal amount of time from NBC have a one-week window to claim it, and it doesn’t have to be on SNL. In case you were wondering, a similar notice was posted after Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton made her cameo in the season premiere, offering up three minutes to willing candidates.
Whether the candidates take the opportunity is up to them, but by posting the notice and offering the time, NBC hasn’t violated anything nor has Trump. So, the real question is if we’re going to see Bernie Sanders and Larry David square off face-to-face at some point and if it will cause a glitch in the Matrix.