In his ongoing efforts to turn modern political campaigning into the most frightening dystopian satire in history, Donald Trump appeared on Saturday Night Live earlier this month — and now NBC is going to have to give the same amount of airtime to other Republican primary candidates that want their own turn in the spotlight. The Hollywood Reporter and Variety are both reporting that NBC is giving 12 minutes and 5 seconds each to Mike Huckabee, John Kasich, James Gilmore, and Lindsey Graham during primetime on November 27th across 18 different NBC affiliate stations in Iowa, South Carolina, and New Hampshire, as well as during the November 28th broadcast of Saturday Night Live. The total amount of time will be shared across the two dates, and be made up of commercials and promo time. The network is also reportedly in discussions with George Pataki, who announced plans to seek equal time earlier this month.
Under current FCC regulations, if a network provides free airtime for a political candidate, it must also provide "equal time" for any opposing candidate that requests it (documentaries, news interviews, scheduled newscasts, and spontaneous, on-the-scene news events don't trigger the rule; comedy variety shows do). The rule is in place because networks could essentially skew a race by giving any one candidate more time to espouse their particular views. In the case of Trump's SNL appearance, it's allowing his Republican challengers the opportunity to grandstand in the broader popular arena to draw some attention to their flagging campaigns, while also providing some decent sketch fodder for SNL — if they choose to address the situation.