Joining Fred Thompson and Stephen Colbert (see our stories here and here), Presidential candidate Barack Obama appeared briefly on Saturday Night Live last night and delivered that iconic line – "Live From New York, It’s Saturday Night!" But does his appearance trigger equal opportunities for television stations that aired the program and, if so, would any candidate actually request that time? Unlike the Thompson and Colbert appearances, Obama was on broadcast television, not cable, so the question of whether equal opportunities applies to cable networks was not implicated. And, unlike the appearances that candidates have made on talk shows (see our discussion of the broad exemption from equal opportunities given to news interview programs, here), it would be difficult to argue that the Obama appearance was in the context of a news interview program.
But, would any candidate request the equal opportunities to get 10 or 20 seconds of equal time? What kind of message could an opposing candidate get out in that limited amount of time (and I must admit that I didn’t have my stopwatch working, so it could have been even less time) – and how much more publicity would such a request give to Obama (and Saturday Night Live)? And such a request could raise the issue of who is a legally qualified candidate – as no registration papers for the Presidential primaries have been filed yet in most states – though the standard for legally qualified candidates for President are not as black and white as they are for other political candidates (see our discussion of this issue in our entry on the short-lived Colbert candidacy). So, in this case, we can really stayed tuned – at 11:30 eastern time on Saturday night – to see what comes next…..