The Governator Visits Leno, and His Opponent Squawks
California State Treasurer Phil Angelides's campaign office fired off letters yesterday to NBC stations in the state demanding they pull last night's broadcast of "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" featuring Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger or be prepared to give Angelides equal time.
Schwarzenegger, who is seeking reelection in 26 days, appeared as a guest on the show for the fifth time since using the NBC program to announce his first candidacy in 2003.
Angelides, who is running against the former bodybuilder/action-flick star, had not been invited on the show as of late last night. Angelides says that's a violation of the so-called equal-time rule.
Federal Communications Commission regulations require broadcast stations that give time to one candidate for an office to give equal time to the other candidates; some exemptions are given to news and interview programs.
Yesterday NBC said the governor's chat with Leno would fall under an exemption for news interviews.
"Consistent with 'The Tonight Show With Jay Leno's' previous practice, NBC is following the news guidelines for interviewing a political candidate," the network said yesterday in a statement. "Under the news guidelines, the scheduled appearance of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on the Oct. 11 broadcast is not subject to the FCC's equal-time provisions."
Hooey, says Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.).
"They're making a false distinction," is what he actually told The TV Column yesterday.
Becerra on Tuesday sent a letter to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin complaining about NBC's refusal to give Angelides equal time with Leno.
"Jay Leno's show lists itself as a late-night entertainment show," he told The TV Column. A late-night entertainment show that's giving a gubernatorial candidate "the opportunity to use the broadcast to show his face . . . to gain benefit from the public exposure . . . some three weeks from the election for the highest-ranking office in the state of California."
"Allowing one candidate to be on a widely watched comedy entertainment program clearly falls within the equal-time doctrine and I don't know how they can get around it," Becerra added.