Now Here's The News

Effectively scotching those New York rumors that his advocacy of Phyllis George for "CBS Morning News" had somehow blotted his copybook at the network, CBS/Broadcast Group Executive Vice President Van Gordon Sauter has just signed a new contract -- with the personal blessing of CBS/Broadcast Group President Gene Jankowski . . .

Sauter, who had been president of both CBS Sports and CBS News before his elevation to the top echelon of CBS management, plucked George from "NFL Today" late last year for the "Morning News" coanchor job without, apparently, obtaining the wholehearted approval of his former News division colleagues . . .

Since George's resignation last month with two years still to go on her lucrative contract, some in the News division haven't hesitated to recall Sauter's unilateral action while distancing themselves from blame for George's failures to raise the morning show's ratings . . .

The next question is where Sauter, now in overall charge of news and the owned-and-operated CBS TV stations, goes from here . . .

Rumors abound that he would either like to succeed Jankowski, due for promotion himself someday as the architect over the past seven years of CBS' climb back to leadership in network TV or, in the meantime, take a crack at running the entertainment side of the network . . .

Asked yesterday if Sauter had made known a desire to move up at CBS during contract renewal talks, Jankowski joked that "we'd all like to move up someday. All I can tell you, Van doesn't want to leave CBS" . . .

The Senate Rules and Administration Committee, chaired by Sen. Charles McC. Mathias Jr. (R-Md.), will hold hearings today and tomorrow on pending legislation to televise Senate proceedings . . .

Hearings start at 9:30 a.m. in Room 301 of the Russell Senate Office Building . . .

Today's witnesses will include Senate Minority Leader Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.), a former opponent of the idea, whose Senate resolution would limit TV coverage of debates to only those approved by the majority and minority leaders; Sen. William L. Armstrong (R-Colo.), whose pending bill calls for gavel-to-gavel coverage; Sen. Albert A. Gore Jr. (D-Tenn.), a former House member who favors TV coverage; and Sen. Russell B. Long (D-La.), the longtime leader of the opposition to television in the Senate . . .

Tomorrow, the TV industry will testify, including bureau chiefs from ABC, CBS, NBC, Cable News Network and the Independent Network News here; four Kentucky broadcasters; and Brian Lamb, chairman and chief executive officer of C-SPAN, the public affairs cable network that already carries House of Representatives proceedings . . .

A recent C-SPAN poll of the Senate indicated 62 members now favor or are leaning toward some form of Senate TV coverage. Proponents believe the Senate could bring the issue to the floor shortly after the first of the year, with possible TV coverage then available perhaps by 1987 . . . Moving Right Along

Channel 7 has acquired rights to a tape-delayed broadcast of the giant Sunday, Sept. 22, Farm Aid benefit concert from Champaign, Ill., which will air live on cable . . .

Seven will carry three hours of the 12-hour concert starting at 11:45 p.m. . . .

The concert features Willie Nelson, John Cougar Mellencamp and some 60 other acts dedicated to raising money for the troubled American farm community . . .

Overnight ratings in 10 major cities for the prime-time performance of "Death of a Salesman" Sunday on CBS indicate that the Dustin Hoffman starring vehicle finished a strong second to ABC, while outdistancing the NBC schedule . . .

With CBS sliding its schedule due to an NFL overrun at 7 p.m., "Death" averaged a 16.4 Nielsen rating and a 26 percent audience share in the 10 cities monitored by that ratings service between 8:15 and 11 p.m. . . .

ABC, which telecast a special introducing its fall schedule and a rerun of the "Lady Blue" pilot, averaged a 16.7/27 during the same period. NBC trailed with an 11.1/18 . . .

Among the big markets, Washington gave the Arthur Miller play its biggest audience, averaging a 19.0/31, compared with a 13.9/22 for ABC and an 11.0/18 for NBC . . .

The National Association of Broadcasters, which already has a public service campaign aimed at excessive use of alcohol, today will launch a drug awareness program featuring sports celebrities . . .

Major professional sports organizations and the federal Drug Enforcement Administration have joined the NAB in the campaign. NAB will satellite the first public service TV announcement Friday to all member TV stations around the country. It features NFL President Pete Rozelle and Gene Upshaw, president of the NFL Players Association. . . .

As the seasons change, other sports celebrities will be featured . . .

Incidentally, the FBI is checking the records of the sports figures who will appear in the PSAs. At a press conference today, NAB President Edward O. Fritts will be joined by Upshaw, FBI Director William Webster and DEA chief John Lawn as well as a representative of the NFL . . .

With little or no competition around, NBC's Saturday lineup, which included the season-opening episodes of two old sitcoms, the introduction of two new sitcoms and the Miss America Pageant at 10 p.m., did very well in the Nielsen overnights in 10 major cities . . .

"Gimme a Break" had a 17.3 rating and a 33 percent audience share; "Facts of Life" did a 20.7/37; the brand-new "Golden Girls" jumped to a 26.0/44; the brand-new "227" fell off slightly to a 24.4/41; and Miss America wound up the evening with a 22.3/41 over its two-hour-plus run . . .

In Washington, "Golden Girls" attracted a 24.2/40, "227" a 25.3/41 and Miss America a 21.9/41 . . .

In development at ABC: a five-hour movie based on Shirley MacLaine's "Out on a Limb" . . . And Finally

On the San Francisco waterfront today, CBS News consultant and veteran correspondent Eric Sevareid will join in ceremonies dedicating a sculpture to the late Eric Hoffer, the longshoreman/philosopher who first attained national celebrity during the late 1960s in two hour-long conversations with Sevareid on CBS . . .

S.F. Mayor Dianne Feinstein will accept the sculpture for the city . . .