TNT Won't Pull Law & Order When Thompson Declares


Now that Law & Order co-star Fred Thompson has signaled his plans to announce his presidential candidacy on Sept. 6, TNT, which airs voluminous repeats of the show, tells B&C in an e-mailed statement that it has "no plans to alter its programming schedule."

The show is scheduled to run on the cable network 23 times next week.

Thompson’s candidacy, when it becomes official, will trigger the FCC's equal-time rule, which requires stations or cable operators that air appearances of federal candidates—even in an entertainment context—to provide equal time to other qualified candidates. Broadcast and cable networks are not subject to the requirement, but TV stations are. Although it has not previously applied to cable systems, some cable networks have reportedly taken steps to avoid triggering the rule and setting a precedent.

The NBC network says it won't air any Law & Order repeats with Thompson in them after Sept. 1 if Thompson does make it official. (It acknowledges that date is when its last Thompson appearance is scheduled to run anyway.)

"The equal-time requirement applies when the person has legally qualified as an official candidate in a relevant state—for example, having his or her name formally approved to be on a state's primary ballot—not merely when he/she declares his or her intent to run," said NBC. But the network added, "If Fred Thompson formally announces his intention to run for president, NBC will not schedule any further repeats of Law & Order featuring Mr. Thompson beyond those already scheduled, which conclude on Saturday, September 1st." 

On the broadcast syndication side, Law & Order: SVU and Law & Order: Criminal Intent, which roll out in national broadcast syndication in September, will not be greatly impacted by the equal-time requirements since Thompson is not a regular cast member on either show. He is in a handful of episodes of each and those episodes will likely be pulled. Criminal Intent will be stripped Monday through Friday while SVU will air in weekend syndication. 

An NBCU cable spokeswoman was not available for comment on whether USA, which generally airs the show multiple times daily, would pull Thompson episodes or leave them on.  

Thompson exited the show at the end of last season, saying he wasn't sure about his political plans.