SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A California congressman lodged a federal complaint Tuesday against "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," for featuring Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger as a guest one month before the election while snubbing his Democratic opponent.
U.S. Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Los Angeles, argues in Federal Communications Commission complaint that the NBC program is violating the equal time provision of the Federal Communications Act.
Schwarzenegger is to appear Wednesday on the talk show.
His opponent, state Treasurer Phil Angelides, asked to appear on the show but had not received a response by Tuesday afternoon, said Steve Maviglio, a spokesman for Angelides' campaign.
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A "Tonight Show" spokeswoman confirmed the Republican governor's appearance but did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
"Use of the broadcast spectrum is granted as a public trust," Becerra wrote in the complaint filed on Angelides' behalf. "It is not to be used to favor certain candidates."
Federal rules require broadcast stations to give equal time to candidates who appear on the air, although the rules do not apply to news programs, interview shows and documentaries in which the candidate is not the sole focus.
An FCC spokeswoman said she could not comment because she had not yet seen a formal complaint.
The equal time question came up during the 2003 gubernatorial recall election, when Schwarzenegger declared his candidacy on Leno's show in a surprise announcement.
Not long afterward, the "Tonight Show" invited all 135 recall candidates to appear, although they were hardly given equal time with Schwarzenegger. Instead, they were given 10 seconds to shout their ideas, all at the same time.
Television stations also stopped airing Schwarzenegger's movies after he declared his candidacy to avoid violating the equal time provision.
In his letter to the FCC, Becerra said the "Tonight Show's" decision to give the recall candidates air time in 2003 demonstrates that the show felt it was liable under the equal time provision.
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