The Federal Communications Commission requires that TV stations and local cable operators -- but not necessarily broadcast or cable networks -- give equal time to political candidates no matter what the venue: talk shows, news shows, or even fictional entertainment dramas.
Former Senator Fred Thompson, most recently an actor on "Law & Order," will give some TV stations some pause. He intends to announce he'll become a presidential candidate.
The rule is a stupid one -- especially when it comes to political candidates. Actors aren't touting any political line, just those of a specific TV producer and writer. Sure, there is an image of Thompson on that show -- but this is totally different from any views he would espouse in trying to become our nation's leader.
In some cases, his appearance on the show might even hurt him.
At any rate, TV stations that air "Law & Order" reruns - or any episodes in the "L&O" franchise that Thompson appeared in -- would need to keep a time track of his on-air appearances. They would have to give his competitors equal time -- and, according to FCC rules on TV political advertising, at the lowest possible price.
That could create a gold rush for other candidates looking for their comparable spotlight.
NBC already says they are not going to rerun any of Thompson's "L&O" episodes. That's because stations running those episodes will be in the same predicament -- having to give equal time to other candidates.
But TNT, and probably USA Network, will not do the same -- though their local cable affiliates come under the rule. Look for local cable affiliates to hang out the "blacked out in our market" signs when the show airs on either USA or TNT.
Unlike NBC, both TNT and USA Network air reruns of hour-long drama numerous times. They depend heavily on those reruns to draw in big paying advertisers.
All this is kind of academic now, anyway - especially for NBC, which airs more current reruns of the show. Thompson exited the show last season because he was thinking of a presidential run.
Would Thompson's TV appearances really make that much difference -- especially now with candidates using a host of digital platforms to tout their message?
it's all show. It's not even politically correct.