TNT votes for Thompson, 'L&O'

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Cable network TNT is sticking by "Law & Order" despite co-star Fred Thompson's announcement Thursday that he will officially declare his presidential candidacy next week.

"TNT has no plans to alter its programming schedule," a spokesperson for the cable network said.

FCC regulations mandate that TV stations must provide a political candidate with airtime equal to his or her opponents beyond the coverage of news events, which includes entertainment programs. However, the rule has never been imposed on cable networks, though select channels in the past have avoided airing films featuring actors-turned-candidates including Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

"L&O" repeats comprise a significant portion of TNT's schedule. It aired nine times on Thursday alone within a 24-hour period.

NBC already has indicated that it would stop airing "L&O" reruns featuring Thompson, a former senator from Tennessee, if he declared his intention to run.

Thompson gave up his post as District Attorney Arthur Branch on "L&O" in May following reports that he would be forming a presidential committee. He played the role for five seasons.

Executive assistant district attorney Jack McCoy, played by "L&O" veteran Sam Waterston, is getting bumped up to district attorney in the show's upcoming 18th season.

Thompson is planning to announce his intention to run as a Republican candidate on Thursday in a webcast on his Web site, www.imwithfred.com, saying the launch of the video will be followed by a five-day campaign tour through Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.
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