NBC News, facing at least as many budget problems as the news divisions at CBS and ABC . . . is cutting four field producers and reporters from its Houston and Atlanta bureaus . . .
No firings . . . the network just isn't renewing contracts when they come up at the end of the year . . .
One reported casualty is Bonnie Erbe, formerly with Channel 9 here . . .
WFRV-TV (Channel 5), the longtime (since 1959) NBC affiliate in Green Bay, Wis., has decided to switch to ABC . . .
With the changeover in the 68th largest TV market . . . ABC will have a total of 208 affiliates . . .
Unlike a lot of NBC stations around the country . . . ratings-poor after several years of sub-par network performances in all day parts of the schedule . . . WFRV has been No. 1 in its market in both prime time and daytime and a strong No. 2 in news and early morning . . .
Channel 5 also has a satellite station in Escanaba, Mich., so the acquisition will give ABC its very first outlet in Escanaba, located on the Upper Peninsula . . .
Midwest Communications Inc., which owns WCCO in Minneapolis, purchased WFRV last year and brought in new management, which apparently was a little more receptive to ABC's blandishments than the previous ownership . . .
Although Midwest's current contract with NBC runs through January 1985, it contains an option to cancel, giving six months notice . . .
It is expected that the changeover will occur sometime next spring . . .
There have seldom, if ever, been suits over the exercise of options to cancel long-running contracts between networks and affiliates if a station decides to switch allegiance, and no challenge is expected from NBC, despite the length of the current pact . . .
WLUK (Channel 11), the current ABC affiliate in Green Bay, which ranked third in the Green Bay market, is expected to switch to NBC . . .
NBC currently has about 215 affiliates . . .
The news wasn't all bad for NBC yesterday, however . . .
The network has learned that through the first five weeks of the new season it is up 26 percent in audiences over last year in New York, up 24 percent in Chicago, 19 in L.A., 21 in Philadelphia and 25 percent in San Francisco . . .
Even taking into account the presence of the World Series on the network for two weeks in October, the big increase suggests that NBC's urban-oriented prime-time schedule is catching on in the major markets . . . the strategy that brought ABC its initial success in the late 1970s . . . although there is still some doubt the schedule has caught the fancy of the smaller markets as yet . . .
NBC is even going to launch a print campaign later this week hailing the fact that WNBC, the New York station it owns . . . and for five straight weeks the No. 1 station in Fun City . . . is now watched in more homes than any other station in the country (that's called Early Hubris in ratings circles) . . . Moving Right Along
Transmitter difficulties yesterday have delayed the start of local programming on Channel 50 until next Monday . . .
The Super TV station will air news, information and music from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m. weeknights and until 3 p.m. on weekends, when the pay-TV fare (using the scrambled signals) takes over . . .
Mike Clemente, who has been a news writer for "ABC World News Tonight" in Washington since January 1980, has been promoted to WNT editor here . . .
Sheila Douglas, formerly of CNN here, started work yesterday as daytime assignment editor at Channel 7, replacing Vicki Hildner, who is now a producer for the WJLA consumer unit . . .
Tony Brown, whose "Tony Brown's Journal" has become a fixture on public TV, will keynote the 38th annual Capital Press Club banquet on Saturday, Nov. 13, at the Shoreham . . .
Channel 7's Lark McCarthy will be mistress of ceremonies . . .
CBS News says that Dan Rather and Bill Moyers will run over to the "Nightwatch" set at 2 a.m. tomorrow morning to be "debriefed" on their just-completed election coverage!!! . . . And Finally
Let's get one thing straight: Those "In Performance at the White House" concerts, coproduced by WETA and WNET, are no longer telecast on a same-day, tape-delayed basis . . .
Contrary to what a gullible C. Airwaves reported yesterday (He had the air dates right, anyway) . . . the Nov. 10 concert on PBS will actually be taped on Nov. 7 in the East Room and the Dec. 22 telecast will be taped on Dec. 4 . . .