An airing of an Arnold Schwarzenegger film on a California TV station between
now and early October could force the station to face an army of candidates more
threatening than Conan’s barbarians.
The law -- sometimes known as the "Bedtime for Bonzo" rule because of
its clarification by the Federal Communications Commission during the days of
gubernatorial candidate and former actor Ronald Reagan -- requires stations to
give candidates time equal to California gubernatorial candidate
Schwarzenegger’s screen time in any non-news appearance.
Because Schwarzenegger’s movies are generally star vehicles, programmers are
unlikely to miss the candidate’s presence in them and choose their program
strategy accordingly, but things could get tricky if one of California’s several
show-biz candidates shows up in a small role in a film or syndicated sitcom.
The California Broadcasters Association has advised broadcasters that bona
fide news interviews, even on entertainment shows like Good Morning
America or The Tonight Show with Jay Leno -- on which Schwarzenegger
announced that he was running -- have tended to be exempted by the FCC.
"Individual segments of a variety or magazine-type show can qualify as exempt
interviews, even though the show as a whole might not," CBS said in a memo to
stations. "Call-in programs and shows with live-studio-audience participants
will also generally qualify for exemption if the host prepares audience
questioners beforehand as to topics considered to be of primary newsworthiness
and the host cuts off or rephrases noncompliant questions."
But if a Schwarzenegger cameo or Gary Coleman guest shot on The Love
Boat slips through, it could theoretically trigger a free-time windfall for
the flood of California candidates, some of whom are clearly angling for all of
the publicity they can get.