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Inside Politics

NBC affiliates may not show Sharpton on 'SNL'

From Mark H. Rodeffer
CNN Political Unit


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Al Sharpton
Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
Elections

(CNN) -- NBC viewers in a handful of states may not see Al Sharpton's scheduled appearance on "Saturday Night Live" this weekend.

The candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination has agreed to host the 90-minute comedy show this weekend but his appearance will trigger federal rules regarding equal time for political candidates.

It could also cause headaches for NBC affiliates in states where Sharpton is already on the ballot.

Sharpton is an ordained minister and civil rights activist from New York City, where the show originates.

So far he has met the ballot requirements in only a handful of places -- California, New Hampshire, Oklahoma and Washington, D.C., according to a campaign aide.

Because federal rules require stations in those areas to provide equal time to legally qualified candidates, some stations may choose to broadcast an older episode of the show instead of taking the live feed.

NBC plans to provide affiliates with a previously broadcast show, according to officials at an Iowa affiliate.

The Federal Communications Commission regulates the broadcast networks and the amount of time candidates are on air as a way to protect the public airwaves.

The equal time rule would apply nationally if Sharpton were on the ballot in more than 10 states, according to Bobby Baker, an FCC attorney.

Because Sharpton hasn't qualified in more than 10 states, the rule will only effect stations in states where Sharpton has already qualified for the ballot.

The rule does not apply to news programs and talk shows.

Earlier this year, the FCC reclassified Howard Stern's radio program as a news show so that he could interview Arnold Schwarzenegger and not be required to provide equal time to the other 134 candidates for California governor.

Sharpton's campaign aide said Sharpton is not appearing on "Saturday Night Live" in his capacity as a presidential candidate and that the campaign is not involved in Sharpton's preparations for the show.

An affiliate relations official with NBC declined to comment on the network's plans for Sharpton's "Saturday Night Live" appearance.


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