Now Here's The News

NBC News is reportedly making a strong pitch for Connie Chung, who broke into TV at WTTG here back in the 1960s and is currently a $600,000-a-year anchor for KNXT, the CBS-owned station in the Los Angeles market . . .

Chung is reportedly paid $450,000 by the station for her weeknight anchor work and another $150,000 by the network for her West Coast "Newsbreaks" during prime-time, appearances on the "CBS Morning News" and other network assignments . . .

Chung has some 18 months left on her three-year CBS contract . . . but a provision in that pact gives her a "window" permitting her to leave the station if she chooses . . .

Both ABC and NBC acknowledge they have been talking to her agent, Alfred Geller, but an ABC News source said yesterday, "She's no longer on the front burner here" . . .

One knowledgeable Los Angeles source said yesterday that Chung has become bored with the 10-hour daily routine at KNXT and, more importantly, is close to an important decision in her personal life that would influence a move back East . . .

She is reportedly seeking work as a weekend anchor, out of either Washington or New York . . .

A spokesman for NBC News yesterday, however, stressed that the network "is not necessarily talking to Connie about being a weekend anchor and there are other assignments she could handle here" . . .

Jessica Savitch now handles the Saturday night NBC News while Chris Wallace is assigned to the Sunday night broadcast . . .

Our source suggested that "Connie knows it's time for her to settle down and she'd probably take a big cut in salary if it meant she could get married and raise a family" . . .

Meanwhile, another former Washingtonian, one-time Washington Star editor Jim Bellows, is being seriously wooed by ABC News in New York . . .

Since November, 1981, when he left the editorship of the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner . . . Bellows has been managing editor of the syndicated TV show, "Entertainment Tonight," which now airs on 133 stations (including Channel 7 here) and is considered to be a growing success . . .

The ABC talks, being handled by Bellows' attorney, Ed Hookstratten, have reportedly reached the dollars-and-cents area but no specific job in the ABC News hierarchy has been spelled out for Bellows at this time . . .

However, the word on Sixth Avenue is that Bellows could be assigned to "20/20" to sharpen its news focus or even put together a primetime "Entertainment Tonight-like" show for the network, designed to compete with CBS' all-conquering "60 Minutes" in the 7 p.m. Sunday night time slot . . .

The latter idea could have gained credence lately at ABC with the advent of a new syndicated show, "Star Search," which just this week (according to Broadcasting Magazine) is getting a tryout on 162 stations, including 41 ABC affiliates and 37 NBC affiliates . . .

Many of those affiliates, one network executive told us yesterday, could be considering the talent show, created by TeleRep Program Enterprises, as an alternative to the network product that ABC and NBC have tried unsuccessfuly at 7 p.m. Sunday for years against "60 Minutes" . . .

("Star Search" was seen locally on Channel 5 here last night, but it is rumored that the Metromedia stations are considering the show as a nonprime-time entry) . . .

It makes sense, according to one rival network executive, for ABC to produce an "Entertainment Tonight" clone rather than lose affiliates on Sunday night to a syndicated product such as "Star Search," should the defections hold up when "Search," as seems likely, goes into regular syndication next fall . . .

Bellows was hired by Paramount TV Domestic Distribution to give the then-stumbling "Entertainment Tonight" a harder news edge . . . and by and large he has succeeded, to the extent that the nightly program must rely heavily on the good will of various studios for the appearance of stars and the use of film clips, etc. . . . and can never become a full-time, hard-hitting Hollywood news show for that reason . . .

Recently, Paramount has reportedly nudged Bellows to push Paramount products more on the syndicated show . . .

At the same time, aware that he was talking to ABC, Paramount quietly signed George Merlis, former executive producer of both ABC's "Good Morning America" and "CBS Morning News" to the newly-created job of executive producer of "Entertainment Tonight,". . .

Merlis, as his career at GMA testifies, is more comfortable with the soft news approach that appeals to Paramount and his arrival at "Entertainment Tonight" in May could spell the end of Bellows' career with the syndicated show, since Paramount was aware of Bellows' conversations with ABC before the decision regarding Merlis was made. . .

Bellows, incidentally, is a good friend of ABC News senior vice president Dick Wald, who was managing editor of the New York Herald Tribune when Bellows was the Trib's editor. . .

Bellows is also a former associate editor of the Los Angeles Times. . .

His contract with Paramount is almost up. . . Moving Right Along

And oh, by the way, look for a major on-air change at Channel 5 in the not-so-distant future if those rumors we keep hearing out of Boston have Any Credibility. . .

Early returns are coming in from the national Most Readable Lips contest being sponsored by the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf here . . . and so far "ABC World News Tonight" anchor Frank Reynolds is first and "CBS Evening News' " Dan Rather is running second. . .

The hearing-impaired from around the country are voting on the top anchors at ABC, CBS, NBC and PBS, with balloting due to end April 15. . .

Early voters suggest, however, that Frank not lower his head when he abandons his teleprompter for a look at incoming news copy. . .

Meanwhile, the seven local judges have started to view the news shows on Four, Five, Seven and Nine and they'll announce the Most Readable winners on May 15th. . .

Last year, Four's George Michael was first, Seven's Tim Brant was second and Nine's Maureen Bunyan was third. . .

The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, which can't interest the networks in carrying its daytime Emmy award show this spring, and didn't get any cooperation from NBC Sports for its February sports Emmy show, is having trouble with its news Emmy awards program, which is scheduled for May 23. . .

As usual, the number of entries and the system of judging are at the heart of the network resistance. . .

So far ABC News has agreed to participate, although it's still negotiating over the judges issue . . . CBS News has opted out, although CBS News president Van Gordon Sauter says employes can enter on their own . . . while NBC News hasn't made up its mind yet. . .

Entries in this year's competition are due by April 22. . .