Equal Time Doctrine Law and Legal Definition

Equal time doctrine states that the U.S. broadcast stations permitting a political candidate for public office to use the facility for broadcasting must also give an equal opportunity to all other candidates for the office. Equal time doctrine is also known as equal time rule.

According to 47 USCS § 315, equal time doctrine is codified in the Communications Act, 1934. There are four exceptions whereby the equal time doctrine is not valid :

1. documentary;

2. bona fide news interview;

3. scheduled newscast;

4. on-the-spot news event.

The following is an example of a case law describing equal time doctrine:

Equal time doctrine has been described as a "contingent right of access"; it does not require a licensee to offer time to any candidate, but once a candidate is permitted to use the station, the station must provide other candidates with equal time at an equal rate, at a comparable hour of the day, and with a similar format for presentation. The purpose of the equal time doctrine is to facilitate political debate by qualified candidates.[Rosenberg v. City of Everett, 328 F.3d 12 (1st Cir. Mass. 2003)]