Thompson gone from NBC, but not TNT
Fred Thompson's plans to announce his candidacy for the 2008 presidential race once again brings up the question of "equal time" provisions that are in place to assure a single candidate is not given more airtime on television than anyone else.
Thompson, a Republican and former Tennessee senator, played DA Arthur Branch on NBC's Law and Order for five seasons. NBC, in keeping with the provisions, has stopped airing episodes that feature Thompson, but TNT, whose schedule overflows with Law and Order reruns, will keep airing the Thompson episodes.
Why? Apparently, the rules are somewhat ambiguous. They were first put into practice in the early days of cable television when most households only watched broadcast television, so it's never been clear if the same rules should apply to cable networks. TNT said it wouldn't discuss the decision, but considering how much the network relies on Law and Order for the bulk of its non-primetime programming, it's understandable why it would want to hold on to those episodes.
The only question now is whether any of the other candidates will step forward to challenge this. I would suggest using digital technology to insert the other candidates into these old episodes, too: Giuliani could play a murder victim, Huckabee could be duplicated twelve times and make up an entire jury . . . the possibilities are endless.