Fred Thompson by Virginia Sherwood/NBC Universal Photo Fred Thompson by Virginia Sherwood/NBC Universal Photo

NBC announced that it plans to stop scheduling Law & Order episodes that include Fred Thompson in his role as District Attorney Arthur Branch as of Sept. 1. The network doesn't want to run afoul of the government provision that requires broadcasters to treat legally qualified political candidates equally when it comes to selling or giving away airtime.

Thompson is expected to soon become an official candidate for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination. Further Law & Order airings with Thompson could put NBC on the hook to provide equal time to other candidates. The equal time requirement does not apply to programming on national cable networks. However, if and when Thompson becomes an official candidate, NBC will decide whether to voluntarily pull his episodes from cable outlets as well.

Thompson appeared in 115 episodes of Law & Order. - Reporting by Stephen Battaglio