Now Here's the News

CBS News yesterday announced the elimination of 125 jobs, including 74 direct layoffs and another 51 representing positions already open that will not be filled . . .

Among the on-air talents departing the network are Lark McCarthy, a general assignment reporter at the Washington bureau; Liz Trotta of "Sunday Morning"; Larry Pintak of the Amman, Jordan, bureau; plus Dallas Townsend and Neil Strawser, both of whom chose early retirement under special provisions announced earlier this month by CBS Inc. . . .

Totally unrelated to the cuts announced yesterday, but sure to affect top CBS News management, are reports that two highly regarded senior executives, Vice President and Deputy Director of News Coverage Ernie Leiser and Executive Producer Burton (Bud) Benjamin, may seek to take advantage of the generous early retirement plan, if they can work out the right deals . . .

In addition to the on-air losses, two news division vice president positions -- labor relations and assistant to the News president -- were eliminated . . . but both Casey Davidson and Ralph Goldberg, who held those respective jobs, may find other positions at the network . . .

The Washington bureau of CBS News lost a total of 19, six of them unfilled, positions that will be eliminated . . .

Hardest hit unit was the Washington-based "Nightwatch" program, which lost 11 positions, including seven people, from its staff of 53. The cuts will eliminate live updates of the news and force other format changes on the late-night show . . .

The cuts affected every unit at CBS News. Even "CBS Evening News With Dan Rather" lost two; "CBS Morning News" lost six; "60 Minutes," three; and positions were lost at "West 57th," "CBS Reports," "In the News" and "American Treasury" . . .

In addition, some positions were eliminated at domestic and foreign bureaus . . .

Meanwhile, CBS News reported yesterday that Charles Osgood, turning down an attractive offer from ABC, has signed a new contract with the network . . .

The news was announced at a meeting in New York of the CBS Radio affiliates, when Osgood arrived to chair a morning panel. The affiliates gave Charles a standing ovation . . . and prompted a visit by Captain Airwaves to the Poets Corner, where he learned that:

Charles and his bowties remain at CBS.

Which leaves the folks at ABC in something of a quandary . . .

(What's the matter, you never heard of free verse?) . . . $&% Also in the News

The first Big 3-Network Confrontation of the New TV Season took place Wednesday night . . .

When the dust had cleared, the season debut of NBC's schedule for the night had defeated CBS' top-to-bottom new Wednesday slate. Both edged ABC's stylish three-hour history lesson, "45/85," which still managed to make an excellent showing for a network news program . . .

According to Nielsen overnight figures from 10 major markets, the debut of "The Equalizer" at 10 p.m. on CBS pulled that network's chestnuts out of the fire for the evening, averaging a 17.4 rating and a 29 percent audience share . . .

CBS' "Stir Crazy" at 8 p.m. had started very slowly, with a 12.2/20, compared with "Highway to Heaven's" 16.1/26 on NBC and "45/85's" 13.1/21 . . .

From 9 to 10 p.m., CBS' new comedy block, "Charlie & Co" and the George Burns show, averaged a 15.1/23, while "Hell Town" on NBC did a 16.1/25 and "45/85" climbed to a 14.6/23 . . .

From 10 to 11, it was "The Equalizer" averaging a 17.4/29, compared with a 15.7/26 for "St. Elsewhere" on NBC and a 12.9/21 for "45/85" . . .

In Washington, "45/85" did particularly well, climbing to an 18.3/27 between 9:30 and 10 p.m. and then falling off, as it did all over the country, after 10 when nostalgia buffs apparently turned off the more recent material they were familiar with . . .

For the three hours in Washington, "45/85" averaged a very strong 16.1/25 on Channel 7 . . .

"The Equalizer" by the way, had a 19.8/33 on Channel 9 . . .

Incidentally, the three-hour "The Abortion Battle" on WETA here averaged a 1.0/2 between 8 and 11. It began with a 1.4/2 for the first hour but concluded with an 0.6/1 from 10 to 11 . . . Wait, There's More

Participants at yesterday's breakfast meeting between NBC News president Larry Grossman and the National Cable Television Association board here learned some specific details about NBC's plans for a 24-hour cable news service that could go head-to-head with Cable News Network . . .

Grossman revealed a potential start date of not later than June 1, 1986, if cable systems commit 13.5 million subscribers to the NBC service by Dec. 16 of this year . . .

An initial three-year term would be offered with a renewal period initially of an additional two years . . .

Initial rates per month per subscriber for a cable service would be 12 cents, rising to 15 and then 18 cents over the next two years . . . with rate protections for charter customers . . .

In a move to reassure cable operators bedeviled by signal pirates, Grossman told them that NBC Cable News "is committed to scrambling its signal" . . .

The NBC system would offer two minutes per hour for local advertising and system promotion and cable systems would have the right to use a specified block of five consecutive minutes per hour for local news, advertising and promotion (if a cable system elects not to use the block for local news, the local NBC TV affiliate would have rights of first refusal) . . .

In addition, the presentation promised hard news live through NBC's "unique hundred city satellite interexchange"; high levels of financial and economic reporting through an association with the major financial news organization" (believed to be Dow Jones); "substantial weather coverage" and "high quality sports reporting" . . . And Finally

Hey, "America." Where's our pie? . . .

Channel 9's James Brown has signed another one-year contract with CBS Sports, as an analyst for the network's NBA coverage . . .

NBC Entertainment president Brandon Tartikoff, with Bill Cosby's approval, has decided on the first spinoff from the super-successful "The Cosby Show" series . . .

Tartikoff had spotted a mention of Cosby's real-life sixth-grade teacher while reading Harry F. Waters' Newsweek Sept. 2 cover story on the NBC star . . .

Waters had reported that the teacher hadn't approved of Cosby's schoolroom antics and had appended to his sixth-grade report card the notation that "William would rather clown than study" . . .

As a result, Dr. Cliff Huxtable's sixth-grade teacher, still unimpressed (and still uncast), will be introduced on the series later this year, and after a couple of episodes will move to her own series . . .

Waters, who got a call from Tartikoff as the executive was being limoed across town to "The Cosby Show" studios in Brooklyn on Wednesday, notifying him of his role in solving NBC's spinoff dilemma, said the Entertainment boss told him that "Bill loves the idea" . . .