Fox affiliates can O.J. special

Fox stations owned by LIN, Pappas, and Prime Cities broadcasting decided not to show the controversial two-part interview featuring O.J. Simpson next Monday and Wednesday nights. The announcement of the special last week caught practically everyone off-guard, as it is being headed up by Mike Darnell, head of “alternative programming” at Fox. This, of course is a major November sweeps stunt. (And you thought sweeps were dead. Think again.)

Meanwhile, it is not likely that the airings will be pulled — that’s because Fox owns stations in ten of the top eleven markets (with San Francisco being the exception), and station managers can’t pull network programs off the air because of content (That’s generally a rule for all network O&Os, though it’s very rare this happens – in 1973, then-CBS O&O in St. Louis, KMOX-TV refused to air Sticks & Stones, a controversial movie about the Vietnam War – a very hot topic at the time.) Network O&O’s however, can pre-empt for sports, news programming, or special events. For example, WMAQ-TV here in Chicago usually pre-empts NBC fare in August for Bears pre-season games.

In 1969, ABC turned off raunchy show (at least for that era, anyway) Turn-On after one airing after about 75 ABC stations dropped the show. But back then, there only five ABC O&O’s. Fox has 35 owned-and operated stations, which include MyNetworkTV affiliates.

The airing of the O.J. special may also have unattended consequences– from Democrats on Capitol Hill, who recently took control of Congress. Here’s Why.