The Washington Post: Why Donald Trump’s SNL hosting gig could open up a legal can of worms


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.

So McGehee thinks Lessig probably has a good argument. But this thing goes in a lot of different directions very quickly.

First, every station independently is affected. "The requirement is at the station level; it's not at the network," McGehee said. So if Bernie Sanders demanded three minutes of sketch comedy on every NBC affiliate that aired Clinton's SNL sketch across the country, he'd have a good case. (How the station and the candidate sort out meeting that requirement, shy of a showing up on SNL, is apparently negotiable.) ...

"If I were an affiliate of NBC," McGehee said, "I would be saying: 'Hey, guys, wait a minute. You realize the obligation you're imposing on us for the rest of these candidates?'" The obligation is potentially substantial: Trump's appearance would be hard to defend as being oriented around a bona fide news broadcast or interview, and there are at least 14 other Republicans who could make a claim to however long Trump appears onscreen. ...

And that depends on how strictly the FCC (in the form of assistant directorRobert Baker) defines "qualified candidate." The government has definitionsto that end, but it's not clear how many of the 230-plus Republicans who have filed as presidential candidates can meet the standard. Sure, Jeb Bush can, but what about Mark Everson? (One limiting factor: The candidates would probably need to at least have enough money to hire a lawyer, McGehee says.) If even 30 file for an equal opportunity in response to Trump and are granted it, that's 11 hours -- per station.

To read the full article at The Washington Post, click here