Chapter

Presidential Debates and “Equal Opportunity”

in Inside the Presidential Debates

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print April 2008 | ISBN: 9780226530413
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226530390 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226530390.003.0003
Presidential Debates and “Equal Opportunity”

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From the vantage point of the twenty-first century, it is easy to overlook the fact that much of the long controversy surrounding the presidential debates in the United States had nothing to do with the debates themselves but with legal controversies involving the broadcasting of the debates. While Congress in 1960 changed the law temporarily to make the televised presidential debates between John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon possible, it left on the books the legislation that had the practical effect of making further such debates impossible until well after 1960. When the law finally did change, it was not Congress that changed it but the Federal Communications Commission and the federal courts. The Federal Radio Act and the one that replaced it, the Communications Act of 1934, created what is known as the “equal time” rule in Section 315. This chapter examines Section 315 and the “equal opportunities” or “equal time” rule.

Keywords: televised presidential debates; United States; Congress; Federal Communications Commission; Communications Act of 1934; equal time; Section 315; equal opportunities; legislation; broadcasting

Chapter.  5854 words. 

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