The problem with Fred is that he’s a TV star, and McCain-Feingold doesn’t like people who are on TV without being “fair” to everybody else.
Fred’s got some issues. He still wants to get paid for his Law & Order gigs, but so long as he shows up in those eps, there needs to be equal time for his opponents elsewhere. Given that there’s potentially up to 20 opponents, Democrat & Republican, a 15 stint on Law & Order will mean NBC has to grant 300 minutes of time to everyone else (that’s 5 hours of programming).
Absurd as it sounds, it’s the law, and Thompson has to play it safe or risk alienating the one item that’s keeping him in the spotlight.
Now, he may leave L&O at the end of the season– that’s fine. And they’ll run reruns on NBC through the summer. But when the new Fall season starts, the eps will be Fred-free, and there’s no longer any campaign finance problems.
So expect Fred! to announce in September when the new Fall season starts and there are no conflicts there for NBC.
As for TNT and USA and all the other stations that run L&O repeats, they can keep running with Fred!, no problem, because the restrictions on cable are few, and equal time is not guaranteed. Got that, Ken Levine? If that were the case, all the old eps of SNL with Al Franken would have to be pulled. And hopefully burned. Then for once in his life Franken will be funny.