Now Here's the News

NBC News is exploring the possibility of starting an all-news cable TV network that would compete directly with Ted Turner's Cable News Network (CNN) . . .

Although he cautions that prospects for the project are in the "long shot" range at this point, NBC News President Lawrence K. Grossman said yesterday that he sensed "lots of support" when he broached the idea last week before the network affiliate board's news committee when it met in New York . . .

"The feeling was that they all recognized that cable news, in one form or another, was going to be there and it made sense to use our own affiliates' news gathering and our satellite capabilities if we should try" . . .

Grossman said probably no decision would be reached on the project until the end of the year. Vice President for Editorial Production Services Tom Wolzein is in charge of the development . . .

Grossman said that the network has been looking at the idea for a couple of months . . .

The New York meeting was attended by major affiliate representatives and included James Lynagh, president of Multimedia Broadcasting Co. of Cincinnati, who is chairman of the NBC affiliate board . . .

Grossman said yesterday he could not estimate start-up costs for the project . . .

A spokesman for the network cautioned that union contracts (mostly with the National Association of Broadcast Employes and Technicians -- NABET) probably precluded use of any domestic NBC personnel, including on-air talent, in a cable news operation . . .

However, NBC's overseas news operation, the news services of the 200-plus NBC affiliates as well as the NBC satellite capability would be available . . .

A copyrighted story in the Los Angeles Times reported that a spokesman for CNN in Atlanta quoted Turner as saying of the proposed NBC venture:

"Cable's strength is its diversity of programming choices, and we welcome newcomers to the industry. However, we would suggest to NBC that music video channels are easier and more profitable to operate than all-news networks" . . .

Turner's CNN has never turned a profit in its five years of operation. It currently is available on cable systems servicing some 32 million cable TV homes in the United States. A subsidiary service, Cable Headline News, is distributed to about 15 million cable TV homes . . .

Several years ago, ABC Inc. and Group W (Westinghouse Broadcasting & Cable) formed a joint venture called Satellite News Channel to compete with CNN, paying cable systems to carry SNC in the hope that advertising revenues would make it profitable . . .

The SNC system failed to catch on and two years ago Turner paid the partners $25 million for SNC and folded it up . . . Missed Appointment

Even in the age of the satellite, the difficulties of dealing with a running news story 10,000 miles from U.S. news headquarters continue to crop up . . .

Friday, both CBS News and ABC News ran afoul of communications problems of one sort or another in their dealings with South African government officials that resulted in canceled live interviews and, in the case of CBS, an apology from the network to the deputy foreign minister, Louis Nel . . . .

Earlier last week, in anticipation of President P.W. Botha's Thursday speech on reforms, CBS News had requested a follow-up interview with Nel to be scheduled on Friday's "CBS Morning News" . . .

But due to a foul-up at CBS in New York, Nel's acceptance was not recorded . . .

As a result, the program on Thursday hastily booked Herbert Beukes, South Africa's ambassador-designate to the United States, to appear on the Friday program along with an already-taped interview with opposition leader, the Rev. Allan Boesak . . .

When Beukes showed up Friday morning at the CBS News bureau here it was only to tell them that he had spoken to Nel earlier that morning and that since the deputy minister would be appearing on the program he would withdraw . . .

That was when CBS realized something had really gone amiss . . .

Meanwhile, Nel showed up at a South African TV studio only to learn that no preparations had been made for his appearance on CBS, including reservation of satellite time . . .

When he came to work Friday morning, CBS News President Ed Joyce promptly fired off an apology to Nel for the inconvenience . . .

In his telegram Joyce explained the acceptance had been mishandled in New York and said he hoped for future cooperation . . .

Meanwhile, ABC News' "Nightline," which had maintained all week that it had a live interview scheduled Friday night with South Africa foreign minister R.F. (Pik) Botha, learned early that day that he would not be available, after all . . .

He was replaced on the program by Chris Heunis, minister of development and No. 3 in the South Africa government's hierarchy, behind President P.W. Botha and Pik Botha . . .

CBS' "Face the Nation," meanwhile, which had maintained it had an interview with Pik Botha lined up exclusively from the first, did interview him live yesterday, as scheduled . . . Hill Street Blues

A little more about that turmoil on the set of NBC's "Hill Street Blues" . . .

On Friday, denying a report that she had walked off the show, Barbara Bosson did confirm that she has asked for her release from the show because the producers "haven't been straight with me" . . .

And a spokesman for actor James B. Sikking, who plays Lt. Howard Hunter on the series, said that it was "absolutely untrue" that he was involved in a dispute with the producers . . .

A Hollywood columnist had reported early last week that both Bosson and Sikking had walked off the show after Betty Thomas (Sgt. Lucy Bates), who is at their salary level, had received a raise and they hadn't . . .

Bosson is the real-life wife of Steven Bochco, who created the series, but was let go as executive producer this spring when episode costs got out of hand . . .

Bosson, who plays Fay Furillo, the divorced wife of Daniel J. Travanti (Capt. Frank Furillo) on the series, said Friday she had "finished my work on the first three shows and I'm not scheduled to work on the fourth and fifth shows. When I left I said goodbye because I didn't think I'd be working again" . . .

"I want to leave because they haven't been straight with me on my contract," Bosson complained. "I said they had to pay me parity with my group or I'd leave. I have decided to leave because of irregularities in the business deal. Money is not the issue. I discovered they told my agent things that were not true" . . . Also in the News

Channel 32 adopted a new strategy for its annual late-summer fund-raising drive, which began this past weekend . . .

The fund raising is being confined to the Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights of two weekends. Next weekend will mark the end of the drive, for which no money or membership pledge goals have been set . . .

Both Saturday nights are devoted to gospel music, which has been very successful for the Howard University station in past fund-raising efforts. This coming Saturday night both the Metropolitan Baptist Church chorus and the Youth for Christ Fellowship massed choir, under the direction of Don Edward Miller, will be highlighted . . .

For the eighth time in the past 11 weeks, a resurgent ABC has won the daytime network race . . .

CBS, which had taken over first for some time after years of ABC triumphs, has won two and tied for first in the same period . . .

During the week ending Aug. 9, ABC's soaps and game shows averaged a 6.4 Nielsen rating and a 22 percent audience share, compared with a 6.1/22 for CBS and a 4.9/18 for NBC . . .

Top five shows in the most recent ratings: ABC's "General Hospital," CBS' "Price Is Right II," ABC's "One Life to Live" and "All My Children" and CBS' "Young and the Restless" . . .