Presidential candidate Donald Trump pointed out in a CNN interview with Jake Tapper that he will be giving up hundreds of millions of dollars to run for the office.
That was a reference his Apprentice reality show on NBC, which he pointed out he was having to give up. He said NBC would have preferred he not have to forego the show given its success. In truth, the show's ratings have slipped and the network has kept the show largely out of the promotional spotlight of late. In a statement this month affirming its commitment to the 11-year-old franchise, the network conceded Trump's role as host would need to be evaluated in light of his run.
He is not required to give up the TV appearances, but as a practical matter he would need to for the sake of the TV stations that carry the show.
That is because per FCC rules, a declared candidate for federal office can't appear on TV, other than in bona fide news and interview shows, without triggering the obligation of TV stations to provide an equal opportunity for access to their airwaves for all similarly situated candidates who request it—and there are more than a dozen Republican candidates alone—to use their airwaves.
"If any licensee shall permit any person who is a legally qualified candidate for any public office to use a broadcasting station, he shall afford equal opportunities to all other such candidates for that office in the use of such broadcasting station," the FCC rules say.
An FCC official speaking on background said that the equal opportunities obligation for a presidential candidate would be triggered when they announced their candidacy, but would only apply in those states where it can be shown that they had campaigned extensively.
Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.
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