Sure enough, long-shot Democratic candidate — and law professor — Larry Lessig has already sent a letter to NBC affiliates demanding an equal opportunity to appear on their stations under that provision. The law states that if a candidate is allowed to use a broadcast station, the station must “afford equal opportunities to all other such candidates for that office in the use of such broadcasting station.” That doesn’t hold for “bona fide” news programs, like Donald Trump’s infinite Sunday morning interviews, but probably holds for something like a scripted appearance on SNL.
Meredith McGehee, policy director at the Campaign Legal Center, explains that this is a slightly murky area.
“There have been enough instances where you have seen a walk-on at something like ‘Saturday Night Live’ where I don’t think the equal opportunity was claimed,” she said. “But you can make a pretty good argument that there’s no aspect of this that’s a bona fide news program.” As the media have gotten more diverse in their formats, the “boundaries of what triggers equal opportunity have grown over the years,” McGehee said. Things like “The Daily Show,” which mix comedy and interviews, helped shift precedent with the FCC.