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.

NEXT: Are 300 Million Americans Too Many?

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  1. Or maybe the “equal time” rule, and for that matter the whole FCC is is just a first amendment violation. Way to miss the donut Jake


  3. Turn off your caps lock key, idiot!

  4. Yeah, and what about the time David Brooks sat on a banana? I guess the New York Times is special.

  5. Mr. Sullum,

    Don’t bother to ask “How ridiculous can it get?” The answer is “We’ll never know.”

  6. Oh, ferchrissakes, you turn on Faux News Channel (or CNN or MSNBC, etc) for 10 fucking minutes. Just 10 minutes, that’s all. Then, you come back here and tell me that it’s anything but mindless entertainment. I mean, this kind of crap has been going on ever since the advent of the nightly-news teaser commercials…“Your life might be in imminent danger! Tune in to ABC news at 10 to find out more…” It’s what they call “infotainment”, you twats, and I’m sick and bloody tired of people trying to draw some stupid distinction between “news” and “entertainment”. Hell, recent studies have shown that people who watch The Daily Show are MORE informed than those who watch what is referred to as “news”. So let’s just cut the bullshit and call this what it really is: a first amendment violation.

  7. By what metric could the Tonight Show be possibly considered not to be an interview show? The whole show is a few jokes and skits that revolve aroundone to three interviews each show.

    That said, why the hell should a private show have to give equal time to anyone? What a dumbass law. What are the odds of any part of the mass media ever giving equal coverage to Libertarians or Greens or whatever? Slim? None?

    We whould simply abolish the FCC and save a ton of hassle, not to mention taxpayer dollars.

  8. you turn on Faux News Channel

    Bwa-ha-ha-ha! Oh, please pardon me while I put my monocle back in, I’ve never heard such a sparklingly original bit of levity in my life! How did you ever think that up?

    And it’s my experience that people who brag about watching the Daily Show are insufferable twats.

  9. Wow Fatmouth, that’s mighty categorical. I suppose it could also be that you hate how they roast your deities on a nightly (except Friday) basis.

  10. People still get their news from television? Interesting.

    Now, if you’ll excuse me, a Pony Express rider just showed up at my door with the last month’s mail.

  11. “That said, why the hell should a private show have to give equal time to anyone?”

    Don’t you understand the sentiment? Congress recognized that anybody who they licensed to broadcast was being privileged over those whom they didn’t license, so they sought to mitigate the privilege’s possible impact on politics. Like, it’s OK that you make money off the privilege by selling ads (unless you’re an ed station), but not OK that you get to favor one candidate for office over another, because of course politics is more important than business. Well, that was the view of members of Congress.

  12. But! . . But! . . . with BIG MEDIA CONSOLIDATION and huge CORPORATE MERGERS gobbling up EVERY SINGLE INFORMATION SOURCE we need the opposition view! When Rupert Murdoch controls the information, he controls the world!

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