Pub. date: 2009 | Online Pub. Date: December 16, 2009 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412972048 | Print ISBN: 9780761929574 | Online ISBN: 9781412972048| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Christopher H. Sterling
Equal time is a widely used shorthand term referring to fairly complex federal requirements concerning American political candidate purchase or other use of radio or television air time. The phrase “equal opportunities” better incorporates the many relevant facets of the requirements. The basic intent of the law and related regulations is to enhance and provide more balanced access to competing candidates for broadcast air time during election campaigns. However, these regulations have not balanced the disparity in funds among candidates, allowing a wealthy or well-supported candidate to purchase more air time more often. The First Amendment's clear prohibition against federal interference with the press has meant that there has never been a similar political access requirement for print media. Yet because spectrum frequencies are limited and thus stations must be licensed, courts have held that broadcasting is subject to more limited First Amendment rights. Broadcasters have argued for decades that ...