A Federal Trade Commission presiding officer has ordered a postponement of next month's Washington hearings in the controversial children's advertising case.

In a somewhat unusual ruling, Presiding Officer Morton Needelman yesterday denied requests from several industry representatives for a delay in the hearings, but then turned around and said he would order a postponement because he needed more time.

The Washington hearings are now scheduled to run from March 5 to March 30.

The FTC hearings on the proposal to limit or prohibit television advertising aimed at children begin in San Francisco on Jan. 15.

After two weeks of hearings in San Francisco, more hearings were scheduled to follow immediately in Washington.

Several toy and food manufacturers involved in children's advertising had petitioned the commission to postpone all of the hearings to give them more time to prepare testimony.

After chastising industry for going above his head, directly to the commission, Needelman said in his ruling yesterday that the grounds presented by the various petitioners for delay were "unacceptable."

"As far as I know," Needelman said, "no presiding officer has ever made the record available as quickly as I have in this proceeding, and nothing said in motions or accompanying affidavits convinces me that all interested persons have not had sufficient time to prepare for their limited role in the legislative phase of proposing questions to the presiding officer."

The petitioners had argued that they did not have enough time to evaluate the voluminous comments submitted by interested parties to the FTC, and could not, therefore, propose questions Needelman should ask of those testifying on the same subject.

In a pleading filed with Needelman yesterday, the Grocery Manufacturers Association protested his ruling by saying it would not send an attorney to San Francisco nor would it submit questions to Needelman for witnesses there. The GMA did say, however, that it was reserving its rights to cross examination or further involvement later.

In fact, the powerful GMA will field the leadoff witness in the Washington hearings.

Following is the new witness schedule for the Washington hearings.

WITNESS SCHEDULE

March 5, 1979: 9 a.m., Robert W. Harkins, Grocery Manufacturers of America; 10:30 a.m., Peggy Charren, Action for Children's Television; 1 p.m., Dr. Robert W. Chestnut, Columbia University; 3 p.m., Alfred Schneider, Squire Rushnell, Melvin Goldberg, American Broadcasting Companies Inc.

March 6, 1979: 9 p.m., James H. Shaw, Harvard School of Dental Medicine; 10:30 a.m., John W. Hein, Forsyth Dental Center; 1 p.m., Dr. Robert W. Glass, Forsyth Dental Center; 3 p.m., Basil G. Bibby, Eastman Dental Center.

March 7, 1979: 9 a.m., Dr. Gary E. Costley, Kellogg Co.; 10:30 a.m., Michael F. Jacobson, Center for Science in the Public Interest; 1 p.m., Eugene B. Hayden, Cereal Institute Inc.; 2 p.m., Abraham S. Weiss, A.S. Weiss Associates Inc.; 3 p.m., Sheldon Margen, Linda M. Gaudiani, University of California.

March 8, 1979: 9 a.m., John R. Rossiter, The Wharton School; 10:30 a.m., Thomas S. Robertson, The Wharton School; 1 p.m., Robert J. Keeshan, Robert Keeshan Associates; 1:30 p.m., Sherryl Browne Graves, New York University; 2:30 p.m., Sam Kazman, Pacific Legal Foundation; 3 p.m., F. Earle Barcus, Lucille McLaughlin, Action for Children's Television.

March 9, 1979: 9 a.m., Barry L. Zoumas, Chocolate Manufacturers Association; 10 a.m., Ellen Haas, Community Nutrition Institute; 11 a.m., Richard T. Koritzer, Georgetown University; 1 p.m., Martin B. Abrams, Mego Corp; 2 p.m., Marvin Goldberg, McGill University; 3:30 p.m., Edwin L. Palmer, Children's Television Workshop.

March 12, 1979: 9 a.m., Robert B. Choate, Council on Children, Media and Merchandising; 10:30 a.m., Dr. Paul A. Lachance, Rutgers University; 11:30 a.m., Brenda R. Tanger; 1 p.m., Jon J Kabara, Michigan State University; 2 p.m., Sheldon Reiser, U.S. Department of Agriculture; 3:30 p.m., Elizabeth M. Whelan, Frederick J. Stare, American Council on Science & Health.

March 13, 1979: 9 a.m., Julius B. Richmond, Department of Health, Education & Welfare, Donald Kennedy, commissioner, Food & Drug Administration, James P. Carlos, National Institute of Dental Research; 11 a.m., William E. LaMothe, Kellogg Co.; 1 p.m., Jonathan Fielding, Massachusetts commissioner of public health; 2 p.m., Mary T. Goodwin, Wayne Batwin, Montgomery County Health Department; 3 p.m., Michael D. Alfano, Dominick P. DePaola, Fairieigh Dickinson University.

March 14, 1979: 9 a.m., Scott Ward, Harvard University, Daniel B. Wackman, University of Minnesota, Ellen Wartella, Ohio State University; 11 a.m., Robert Abramovitz, Yale University Child Study Center; 1 p.m., Mary Alice White, Columbia University; 3 p.m., Dr. Thomas R. Donohue, Kellogg Co.

March 15, 1979: 9 a.m., Robert Lamb, American Dental Association; 10 a.m., Dr. Richard F. Murphy, American Association of Public Health Dentists; 11 a.m., Edward A. Sweeney, Harvard School of Dental Medicine; 1 p.m., Valerie Heinonen; Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility; 2 p.m., Dr. William M. Edgar, Kellogg Co.; 4 p.m., Abraham E. Nizel.

March 16, 1979: 9 a.m., Dr. Joan Gussow, Columbia University; 11 a.m., Carol A. Palmer, Tufts University; 1 p.m. Pro Sherman, Broadcast Advertisers Reports; 2 p.m., R. R. Ridgeway, Arbitron Co.; 3 p.m., Michael L. Geis, Ohio State University; 4 p.m., Joseph H. Miller Jr., Southeastern Louisiana University.

March 19, 1979: 9 a.m., Charles J. Wilson, National Soft Drink Association; 10 a.m., Frieda Rebelsky, Boston University; 11 a.m; Sandra E. Gotkin; 1 p.m., Lucille E. St. Hoyme, National Museum of Natural History; 2 p.m., John D. Abel, Michigan State University; 3 p.m., J Howard Beales Ill, Federal Trade Commission; 4 p.m., Martin Block, Michigan State University.

March 20, 1979: 9 a.m. Dr. Alfred A. Kuehn, Kellogg Co.; 10:30 a.m., William M. Rand, Action for Children's Television; 1 p.m., Madeleine S. Large, Families Against Censored Television; 1:30 p.m., Barbara Keating, Consumer Alert Inc.; 2 p.m., Eileen M. Earhart, Michigan State University; 3 p.m., Richard 1. Feinbloom, Harvard Medical School.

March 21, 1979: 9 a.m., John C. Condry, Cornell University; 10:30 a.m., Kathleen Sheekey, Consumer Federation of America; 11:30 a.m., Isabel D. Wolf, University of Minnesota; 1 p.m., Philip J. Nelson, State University of New York; 2 p.m., Alvis V. Adair, Allen University; 3 p.m., Kent B. Monroe, Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University.

March 22, 1979: 9 a.m., David M. Blank, Philip A. Harding, CBS Inc.; 11 a.m., Mary McKenna, Metromedia Inc.; 1 p.m., Aaron Locker, Toy Manufacturers of America; 2 p.m., Harry Hester, M.P.S.C. Screen Cartoonists; 3 p.m., Robert J. Thompson, Greater Bethlehem Area Council of Churches; 3:30 p.m., Annette Dickinson, Basic & Traditional Food Association.

March 23, 1979: 9 a.m., Thomas W. Power, Foodservice & Lodging Institute; 10 a.m., Stewart M. Hoover, Church of the Brethren; 11 a.m., Harry Cunningham, Productive Action for Children's Television; 1 p.m., Dr. Dorothea W. Puckett, American Association of Diabetes Educators; 2 p.m., Francis M. Palumbo, Georgetown University Medical Center; 3 p.m., June Esserman, Child Research Services Inc.

March 26, 1979: 9 a.m., Bernard Freelander, New England Instructional Television Research Center; 10 a.m., Abe Kent, Ideal Toy Corp; 11 a.m. Ronald G. Slaby, Harvard University; 1 p.m., Gail Slater, Massachusetts Teachers Association; 1:30 p.m., Joan Evelyn Kinlan; 2 p.m., Harriet Deel, p.m., Herschel Horowitz, American Public Health Association. Child Care & Summer Programs; 3 p.m. Herschel Horowitz, American Public Health Association.

March 27, 1959: 9 a.m., Leonard Orkin, Davis & Gilbert; 10 a.m., Philip J. Nelson, State University of New York; 11 a.m., Philip Calcagno, T. Berry Brazelton, American Academy of Pediatrics; 1 p.m., Edward H. Weiss; 2 p.m., Joann Paley Gaist; 3:30 p.m., Herbert Ginsberg, University of Maryland Department of Psychology.

March 28, 1979: 9 a.m., John B. Summers, John A. Dimling Jr., National Association of Broadcasters; 11 a.m., Nancy Forbord, Washington Association for Television & Children; 1 p.m., Danute G. Bieliauskas; 2 p.m., Christine L. Williams, American Health Foundation; 3 p.m., Laurene Meringoff, Harvard University.

March 29, 1979: 9 a.m., Arthur R. Schulze, General Mills Inc.; 10 a.m., Myron Allukian, City of Boston; 1 p.m., Melvin Helitzer, Helitzer Advertising Inc.; 3 p.m., William H. Melody, Simon Fraser University.

March 30, 1979: 9 a.m., Charles Alan Wright, University of Texas; 10 a.m., Dr. Irwin D. Mandel, Columbia University; 11 a.m., Grace Baisinger, National PTA; 1 p.m., Rose K. Goldsen, Cornell University; 2 p.m., Rosalyn Franta, Kellogg Co.; 3 p.m., Barbara R. Fowles.