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In the Loop

Truth and Consequences

Broadcast networks have been accused of scuttling coverage of media consolidation precisely because they benefit from it. But that didn't sway John Wells, executive producer of The West Wing, from doing what the network news divisions seldom do. In the April 21 episode, White House press secretary CJ Craig, played by Allison Janney (left), repeatedly expresses her frustration that the FCC is giving media giants more power by letting them buy even more TV stations. One of the beneficiaries of the FCC rule change? NBC, which airs The West Wing. Think of it as Must-Dare TV.

ABC Line Dance

While nothing is settled yet at ABC, Touchstone Television chief Steve McPherson (below) is looking like a strong contender to take the reins from ousted ABC Television Group Chairman Lloyd Braun. Looks like ESPN programming whiz Mark Shapiro, once considered a front-runner, isn't going to take a job at the sister network after all.

How the hierarchy will play out is unclear, but specifics of ABC Cable Networks President Anne Sweeney's new job are being negotiated. If he accepts, McPherson would work in tandem with ABC Entertainment President Susan Lyne. That set-up is apparently why Shapiro nixed a move, not to mention the thanklessness of the task. ABC reps are keeping mum. Either way, the structure will have to be sorted out soon, since ABC presents its fall schedule to advertisers in mid May.

Take This Job—Please

Consolidation has thinned the ranks of big cable operators so much that the National Cable & Telecommunications Association can't cough up a chairman. For ages, senior industry executives rotated in one-year terms. But companies keep getting into trouble, so tapping their top guns to helm NCTA is problematic. Expect Time Warner Cable Chairman Glenn Britt to get elected to a second term after the National Show next month. (NCTA President Robert Sachs actually runs the association.) Next in line for the semi-ceremonial seat is Comcast CEO Brian Roberts. But he says he does not want the post while he's stalking Disney. Industry bigwigs don't want to dip down into the ranks of small operators. The previous chair, Michael Willner, served two terms. That's because his successor was John Rigas (below), then-chairman of scandal-ridden Adelphia Communications.

Fuse Box

Finally, Fuse has a Nielsen monkey off its back. The music channel is no longer cable's lowest-rated out of 56 Nielsen-measured networks. That prize belongs to A&E's digital spinoff Biography Channel, devoted to Biography
reruns and old sitcoms, like NewsRadio
and Night Court
Biography, which started publishing Nielsen ratings in recent weeks, is barely showing a ratings pulse. It mustered an average 23,000 viewers in prime for the week of April 5—9,000 more than the previous week.

Reality check: TNT and USA Network attracted about 2 million viewers in prime. As cable's second-smallest audience, it's time for Fuse to light a fire.