Media Blog

Equal Time Law and Fred Thompson

Michael Shear brought up something in last Friday’s Washington Post article on Fred Thompson that I had not thought of:

If Fred Thompson, the onetime Tennessee senator better known to most Americans as District Attorney Arthur Branch on “Law & Order,” runs for president, some fans may be in for a letdown. Television stations are expected to suspend reruns of the show if he makes a real-life bid for the White House.
Federal campaign law requires broadcasters to give all candidates equal time on the airwaves. That rule applies to entertainment programs like “Law & Order,” meaning stations that run the show would be required to give other GOP candidates a like amount of prime-time exposure.
With as many as a dozen or more Republican candidates competing for the nomination, that would be prohibitively expensive.
“As a practical matter, [the television stations] would in all likelihood have to pull all of the Fred Thompson shows for the duration of his candidacy,” said Andrew Jay Schwartzman, president of the Media Access Project.

There are some issues on exactly when stations would have to pull the shows, with Shear reporting that the “law applies only to candidates whose names appear on official state ballots, a step that none of the candidates have yet taken.”
Or, maybe the networks can simply give TV shows to the other candidates. Hillary can star in a remake of “Green Acres,” Mitt Romney in “Benson,” John Edwards in “Matlock,” etc.

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