January 8, 2019 5:24 pm

Should Trump’s immigration address be aired on TV? Major U.S. networks skipped Obama’s in 2014

WATCH: Stalemate on government shutdown continues for Trump, Democrats


U.S. President Donald Trump is set to talk about immigration reform in a national address Tuesday amid a government shutdown over his demands for border wall funding.

READ MORE: TV networks to air Democratic rebuttal after Trump’s national address on border wall

The speech will air across the country on all major U.S. television networks. But should it?

That’s the question several people are asking online, some arguing that Trump should not be given unfiltered, unedited airtime.

Some tweeted using the hashtag #BoycottTrumpsAddress.

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Obama’s 2014 immigration speech not aired

Several also pointed out that major U.S. television networks didn’t air an address former president Barack Obama made on immigration in 2014, saying it was too partisan.

At the time, Obama was mulling a series of executive orders on immigration after talks had failed. The Democratic president’s planned reforms included giving work permits and protections to some unauthorized migrants.

READ MORE: Trump to deliver prime-time address on security ‘crisis’ amid government shutdown

Politico reported at the time that some network executives considered the address to be too “overtly political.”

Several TV networks, including ABC, NBC, Fox and CBS refused to give Obama the primetime spot and instead aired their regular programming, the Washington Post reported at the time. Many local affiliate stations did air the 8 p.m. speech.

WATCH: How the U.S. government shutdown is affecting Americans

Beyond politics, numbers were at play.

The Post’s 2014 story noted that many networks were trying to boost their viewership, and presidential addresses weren’t necessarily popular viewing at the time.

For example, Obama’s State of the Union address in 2014 got 33.3 million viewers — in 1999, 66.9 million people watched.

WATCH: Trump justifies border wall by saying Obamas have a wall around their home

The Post story added that while TV viewership of Obama’s speeches was relatively low, they did engage an audience online via livestreaming.

On the flip-side, Trump has often attracted TV viewers and even boasted about it on Twitter.

However, Politico reported last October that his ratings have dropped, even on Fox News. 

What’s the law?

While there has been discussion over whether or not TV networks should air presidential addresses, the Poynter Institute for Media Studies explained Tuesday that there is no rule or law that is enforced.

The Fairness Doctrine, which forced networks to provide equal airtime to all voices, was abolished by the Federal Communications Commission in 1987.

READ MORE: Can Trump declare a national emergency to build his wall? Legal experts are torn

That means TV and radio channels can decide whatever they want, legally.

Ethically, there are other quandaries, meaning they have to consider providing equal airtime to Democrats and Republicans to provide both points of view to viewers.

WATCH: Pelosi urges Trump to open government

Democrats to get rebuttal time

That’s why networks airing Trump’s speech have also committed to airing the Democratic response to the president after the pushback online.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer say they will make the case themselves.

ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox and MSNBC all said they would air the rebuttal Tuesday evening.

Trump’s address will be broadcast live at 9 p.m ET. Global News will be streaming the address on our website as well as our YouTube page.

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