After GOP businessman Donald Trump hosted an episode of NBC's long-running Saturday Night Live program -- which drew the show's highest ratings in four years -- the network has decided to give other Republican presidential candidates “equal time” to match the 12 minutes Trump appeared during the Nov. 7 edition of the show.
According to an article posted by Dylan Byers on the CNNMoney website, the unusual offer was made in compliance with the Federal Communication Commission's “Equal Time” rules,
These FCC regulations state that presidential candidates are entitled to equal time for any appearance that does not qualify as a news event. The candidates are not necessarily entitled to the same platform.
In theory, these provisions strive to level the television playing field for political candidates. In practice, the rules only affect stations that broadcast over the public airwaves, and they're limited in scope. Newscasts and most talk shows are excluded from the law.
Other 2016 GOP candidates -- including Ohio governor John Kasich, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, U.S. senator Lindsey Graham from South Carolina, former New York governor George Pataki and former Virginia governor Jim Gilmore -- had filed requests for equal time with several NBC stations last week.
The Kasich campaign's request was sent "to both the network and the affiliates that aired Mr. Trump's appearance. At least two of the candidates -- Graham and Pataki -- have been offered 12 minutes on their requested stations during the 9 p.m. hour on Friday, Nov. 27.
“The Graham campaign sent its request to stations in Iowa and New Hampshire,” Byers stated, while “the Pataki campaign's request went to stations in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and New York.”
Sources with the campaigns declined to comment on the record, as the talks were ongoing, he noted.
“The network would allow candidates to air their own content at specific times on stations where they requested time,” he stated, while NBC “is also currently working with those parties to find a resolution to their request," Dale Woods, president of WHO-TV -- the Des Moines, Iowa, affiliate of NBC -- told CNNMoney.
Woods said the "resolutions could involve time on the network in other programs."
“It was not immediately clear on Thursday what offers, if any, had been extended to the Kasich, Huckabee and Gilmore campaigns,” Byers continued. “The Kasich and Huckabee campaigns had requested equal time from the network itself -- effectively asking for rights to a national broadcast. The terms of Gilmore's request is unknown.”
The network's calculation was that the “Trump Bump” in the ratings and buzz from his night on the variety show would be worth the regulatory complications, and that's exactly what happened.
The 6.6 metered markets household rating was the highest for SNL in almost four years, since the Jan. 7, 2012, episode, when celebrity Charles Barkley and musical guest Kelly Clarkson drew a 7.0/18 ratings.
In addition, the 2.7/18-49 rating was the show’s highest in almost two years, since Feb. 1, 2014 (2.9/12) with host Melissa McCarthy and musical guest Imagine Dragons.
Despite the ratings boost Trump gave the show, it appears that NBC is attempting to create conditions that will discourage the network's programs from including other Republican candidates in their episodes. Only time will tell if this strategy is successful.