Equal Time Law Being Hijacked


One of the concerns of this election cycle is the way in which the Republican machine has manipulated the system to control the outcome of this election and, most likely, every election hereafter until something is done about it.

What am I going on about? Well, I’m not surprised my liberal friends aren’t all that aware of the situation as they don’t pay attention to conservative radio. As I’ve mentioned I do listen to it because I like to know what both sides are saying. When it comes to radio there’s really only one side so that leaves me more time to listen to Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Dom Giordano, Michael Smerconish and a few others. I don’t hear Rush Limbaugh very often as that’s prime work time and listening to him would make me ill enough that my productivity would fall to near-zero.

FCC LogoI’ll jump right to the worst offender—Sean Hannity. His show, for the last several weeks and likely for the remainder of the election cycle, is little more than a Republican candidate advertising outlet. He has this segment he calls, “Meet the Candidates” during which listeners meet every single Republican candidate in a race against a Democrat who needs the exposure. You won’t “meet” anyone who has the seat locked down. You won’t meet anyone who’s seen as not having a chance. Instead, every single day, we hear a litany of candidates beg for national money for their local battles. Hannity is, of course, more than happy to oblige. I don’t recall the last time I heard a Democrat on the show.

For those that don’t know it (and I’m surprised how few today do—which speaks volumes to how the bar has moved) there’s a rule about this called the “Equal Time Rule“. It states that if a radio station gives air time to one candidate they must give equal time to any competing candidate if that candidate requests it.

There are four exceptions: if the interview was in a documentary, if it was a bona fide news interview, a scheduled newscast or an on-the-spot news event. The same rule exists for television but you’d never guess that by watching Fox News (and the opinion shows on that network aren’t scheduled newscasts).

I’m not entirely sure which exemption, if any, these shows are employing to get around the law but it’s clear that it’s working. Candidates that struggled to find funding go on Hannity’s show and suddenly the money starts coming in. They’re able to then use those funds for ads against their rivals who have no such opportunity.

Sharron Angle, the dingbat in Nevada running against long-time dingbat Harry Reid, has stated directly how this has worked to such a degree that she feels these venues exist only to push her own campaign.

Today we have a story from Christine (“I’m not a witch, I’m not a witch”) O’Donnell telling GOP insiders that she’s got Hannity in her back pocket and can go on his show any time to raise money.

I did some advertising for a client on one of these shows a while back and then it was $25,000 for a single ad of 30 seconds. These candidates are on for 10 minutes at a clip. That’s half-a-million dollars worth of free advertising. Plus the candidates are on several times a week. We’re talking millions of dollars of free advertising being given away to one party simply because Sean Hannity wants these people to win. This isn’t news. This is a hijacking of our existing system and, to be frank, it’s radical (a word Hannity just loves to use against all liberals).

Equal time exists for a reason. The FCC created it because they saw the potential for these mediums to be able to sway an election. Now, when we need it most, it’s vanished to the point that virtually no one even recalls it being there.

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