Skein's B plot focuses on media consolidation

HOLLYWOOD — Maybe it’s a good thing for NBC and its media brethren that the ratings bloom is off “The West Wing,” inasmuch as Wednesday’s episode delivered a pointed jab at big media, along with the Federal Communications Commission.

This week’s B plot focused on the White House press secretary’s outrage over media consolidation and the unwillingness of reporters employed by conglomerates to tackle the issue. C.J. (Allison Janney) is met with blank stares when she complains that the FCC, by raising the station ownership cap to 39%, is “posting bail for huge companies that were illegally gobbling up TV stations like greasy hors d’oeuvres.”

The episode cites Viacom, News Corp. and a fictional company that all exceed the 35% ownership limit that stood before the commission revised the rules. NBC, by the way, is still slightly under the old cap, while Time Warner — whose Warner Bros. TV unit produces the show — doesn’t own stations.

“It’s ironic that an issue that was completely unreported on NBC News is getting more treatment in entertainment,” said Jeff Chester, exec director of Washington, D.C.-based Center for Digital Democracy and an outspoken critic of media concentration.

It’s been a relatively big week, by the way, for industry references in TV dramas. Frequent Emmy bridesmaid “The Sopranos” featured its own subplot in which a desperate writer tries to sell an Emmy statuette to an utterly indifferent pawnshop proprietor, who offers $15 just for the metal.

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