Not Tonight? I've Got a Regulatory Headache.


California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was on his buddy Jay Leno's talk show last night, and Schwarzenegger's Democratic opponent in next month's gubernatorial election, Phil Angelides, is pissed. Angelides argues that the FCC's "equal time" rule, which requires stations that give political candidates air time to provide their opponents the same opportunity, means The Tonight Show must have him as a guest as well. But the rule makes exceptions for documentaries, spot news coverage (including debates and press conferences), regularly scheduled newscasts, and news interviews. In 2003, when Schwarzenegger was a candidate to replace recall target Gray Davis, he appeared on The Howard Stern Show, which the FCC, in response to a complaint, deemed a bona fide news interview show. "If a show that regularly features women in various stages of undress, sometimes engaged in lewd acts with fruit, was declared a news program," sniffs The New York TImes, "some legal analysts suggested Mr. Leno's show might likely pass the same test."

Not only am I not sure what "might likely" means (talk about hedging your bets), but I don't get why nudity or lewd acts should put a program outside the "news" category. What about the Naked News? What about every report on the Mark Foley scandal? Or maybe the point is that a show can't be news if it's entertaining, in which case every Daily Show and Colbert Report interview would trigger an equal time requirement.