Fate frowned on the Democrats yet again yesterday. Vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro suffered the heartbreak of bad audio during an appearance on the syndicated Phil Donahue show carried by Channel 9 (WDVM-TV) here. The station was inundated with phone calls of complaint about the garbled sound track, but has no plans to rebroadcast the segment.
Ferraro's appearance on "Donahue" aired live in the show's home base of Chicago on Tuesday and was then fed to stations around the country by satellite for their use. In Washington, viewers saw Ferraro but heard an additional sound track from another program layered over the audio from the "Donahue" show for the first 32 minutes of the one-hour broadcast.
A WDVM spokesman blamed a misbehaving satellite for the trouble. The feed was marred by a disturbance called "double illumination," according to station engineers; the audio tracks from two different programs were beamed out on the same satellite transponder, confusing viewers and seriously mangling what was said on the show. After 32 minutes, the malfunction ceased and the rest of the program was reportedly unimpaired.
Baltimore's WMAR-TV, meanwhile, will air the Ferraro program today, at 9 a.m. on Channel 2, and program manager Charlotte Hall said yesterday that there is no problem with the tape, but that the first two feeds of "Donahue" sent yesterday, at 6 a.m. and 8 a.m., were both of poor technical quality. It was apparently the second that was recorded and aired by Channel 9.
A spokesman for the "Donahue" program said from Chicago that there had been no reports from other cities of problems with the tape.
The WDVM spokesman said 148 calls complaining about the sound track were logged by the station switchboard. In addition, dozens of calls were received at The Washington Post. Some overly imaginative callers said they did not rule out the possibility of sabotage by the Reagan campaign, but WDVM's spokesman indicated that the conspiracy theory did not hold water.
A decision not to rebroadcast the program, despite the technical problems, was made yesterday afternoon, the spokesman said. Normally, the station repeats one "Donahue" show from the previous week on Sunday nights at 11:45, but the Ferraro program will not be the one repeated this week, according to the spokesman, who said she did not know the reason for the decision. Neither WDVM general manager Edwin Pfeiffer nor program director Ed Jones could be reached for comment.