|Everyone knows summer television is lousy. Repeats dominate the airwaves as the networks gear up for the fall.|
But, this summer, the rerun season carries with it some political intrigue. Why? Because NBC is preparing to air a series of "Law & Order" repeats featuring -- you guessed it -- Fred D. Thompson.
Hoping to avoid violating a Federal Communications Commission provision that would force the network to provide equal time to other candidates running for president, NBC chief lobbyist Robert Okun has reached out to the GOP presidential campaigns of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, among others, to inquire whether they would make a major issue out of Thompson being featured in reruns this summer.
Under the equal-time rule, if a network gives time to one political candidate, it is required to provide the same amount of airtime to his or her opponents. In other words, if Thompson appeared on a "Law & Order" episode for 10 minutes during prime time, NBC would have to give Thompson's rivals for the Republican nomination 10 minutes of prime time each.
"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," an NBC spokeswoman said. "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."
All this may be much ado about nothing, however, because recent rumors have Thompson waiting until the fall to make his candidacy official, a move that would mean "Law & Order" lovers could get their fill of tough-talking District Attorney Arthur Branch all summer long.