Ideally, the race for the White House should be decided by a candidate’s skill and wit - actual merits that make him or her perfect for the job. But as shallow as it sounds, image is important as well. That’s been the case since TVs first saw use in the world of politics; a televised debate between a clean and charismatic Kennedy and a dodgy-looking Nixon helped the former gain an advantage. With full awareness of what television can mean for campaigns - let alone the country - the Federal Communications Commission may be forced to step in.

Though the current campaigns are drawing their share of attention, the precedent for the FCC’s current orders goes as far back as 1934; the key stipulation of that law was that broadcast television and radio stations had to give equal opportunities to qualified candidates.

Presumably, the FCC has no intentions of making any deviations. As a result, there could be plans to enforce that law more strictly than ever, especially in the face of powerful media influences - and those who would use the system to their advantage.

The Right to a Broadcast

Hillary Clinton made a recent appearance on Saturday Night Live, while Donald Trump is scheduled to be a host on the same show within the month. As a result, the current laws and regulations could lead to the FCC throwing its weight behind equal time rules - which in turn would mean that networks like NBC would have to adjust to meet them. If Clinton and Trump were the only two striving for slots in the presidential race, then it might not be much of an issue.

But in light of the candidates’ rivals, their appearances on scripted programs, and the need for equal time, it’s entirely possible that the FCC will have to enforce the rule should anyone decide to invoke the law.

Incidentally, the law has already been tapped. Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig has opted to run a campaign to raise awareness about financial issues, and invoked equal time rules to try and appear on the airwaves for as long as Clinton did.

That puts NBC in a tight spot, especially if the network refuses and Lessig takes his request to the FCC. There are stipulations, of course; for example, Lessig has to prove to NBC that he actually qualifies by being on the ballots of at least ten states. But how strictly or how loosely the FCC enforces the law could have a major impact.

It could very well decide who appears, what TV shows broadcast, and for how long.

The fight for a seat in the Oval Office is still underway, and won’t end for a while yet. Even so, the circumstances alone have made mere debates into an absolute spectacle.

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