Now Here's the News

Lark McCarthy, a victim last month of the CBS News budget-cutting wave, has agreed to join the ABC News bureau here as a general assignment correspondent starting Dec. 2 . . .

McCarthy, who made her mark in the Washington area during her six years with Channel 7, had been with CBS' "Nightwatch" and had covered numerous other assignments during her nearly two years with the network . . .

When CBS News let go 74 employes and offered early retirement to another 51 in September, insiders regarded McCarthy's inclusion on the list as something of a surprise, perhaps even a device to divert attention from the fact that the budget cuts seemed aimed at older members of the division . . .

McCarthy said yesterday that ABC Bureau chief George Watson "was on the phone the day the cuts were announced" . . .

She said she'd also received offers from around the country and is "thrilled to be going to ABC News. It's a competitive operation" . . .

Coincidentally, a piece prepared some time ago by McCarthy for CBS News on a Silver Spring couple coping with cerebral palsy, aired yesterday on "CBS Sunday Morning" . . .

Former president Richard Nixon spent two hours Friday morning briefing NBC News executives and correspondents in the sixth-floor NBC board room at Rockefeller Plaza . . .

During the off-the-record briefing he reportedly discussed the upcoming Geneva talks; talked about domestic and foreign issues facing the Reagan administration, including the Middle East; handicapped the 1988 presidential races; and even ventured a prediction on the World Series . . .

The ground rules kept everything off the record . . .

The briefing, which started at 7:30 a.m. and continued over coffee and danish, followed a long meeting NBC News President Larry Grossman had with Nixon in the latter's New York office in June, at which time the idea of a future briefing for the news staff was suggested . . .

Among those at the briefing, we hear, were Grossman; News Executive Vice President John Lane; correspondents Tom Brokaw, John Chancellor and Marvin Kalb; the executive producers of "Sunrise," "Today," "Nightly News" and "Meet the Press"; and other executives of the News division . . . Also in the News

In what was believed to be the first visit to Channel 4 of an RCA chairman since the late Gen. David Sarnoff's reign, which ended in 1970, RCA Chairman Thornton Bradshaw spent several hours Friday at the 4001 Nebraska Ave. NW facilities . . . RCA is NBC's parent company . . .

Station manager David Nuell said yesterday that Bradshaw "seemed especially intrigued" by George Michael's "Sports Machine" equipment, which can pick up 12 different games via satellite at one time . . . which isn't surprising since RCA is in the satellite business, come to think of it . . .

Bradshaw spent about two hours with WRC vice president and general manager Fred DeMarco and other station executives and then toured the NBC News bureau facilities . . .

NBC News is looking in the Arlington area for possible sites to serve as headquarters for its NBC Cable News operation, which, if everything falls into place, could be on the air by June 1 . . .

The Arlington headquarters would pick up news segments from network affiliates and bureaus off NBC's satellite and repackage them for use on the Cable News, which would then be satellited to the MSOs . . .

Meanwhile, letters are going out from NBC News today to the top 100 multiple system cable operators (MSOs), the first big step in lining up subscribers by NBC's Dec. 16 deadline . . .

NBC wants a commitment from cable operators by Dec. 16 that it will reach 13.5 million cable homes before proceeding further in the multimillion-dollar operation . . .

The 100 MSOs to be contacted today reach about 30 million homes, or about 75 percent of the nation's cable subscribers . . .

Without a minimum of 13.5 million, the news service would not receive a Nielsen rating, and without a Nielsen rating, advertisers would be difficult to attract, Tom Wolzien, vice president of editorial and production services, who heads up the NBC News cable task force, said yesterday . . .

As important, the 13.5 million minimum is needed for sufficient subscriber revenues to maintain the 24-hour cable news service . . .

Wolzien said yesterday that the initial mailing is an "unusual step; we're asking for comments from the MSOs within two weeks to tell us what in our proposition works -- and what doesn't" . . .

NBC is asking MSOs to pay 12 cents a subscriber the first year but early signers would receive rebates when the total went above 13.5 million homes . . .

Potential rival Cable News Network is "heading for 18 cents a subscriber," according to Wolzien . . .

Although CNN and NBC have discussed the possible purchase by the latter of a minority interest -- perhaps even with editorial control -- Wolzien emphasized yesterday that NBC is going ahead with its own plans regardless of the CNN negotiations . . .

"We've tried to learn from the Satellite News Channel example," Wolzien said yesterday. Several years ago, the joint venture of ABC and Westinghouse "offered their services free from the start and went on the air with comparatively few subscribers" . . .

SNC was later purchased by CNN and allowed to disappear . . .

MSOs signing with NBC Cable News would get two minutes for advertising every hour plus a block of five minutes for local news, providing another minute for ads . . .

"If they don't use the local block they can offer it to the NBC affiliate in their markets," Wolzien said. NBC Cable News would get about 12 minutes of advertising in each hour . . .

Cable operators signing with NBC would also become "agents" for the service, "giving them the right to market it to people with satellite dishes, like hotels, in their areas as our representatives," Wolzien said . . . And Finally

From our If You Can't Beat 'Em You Can at Least Write an Ad for 'Em file:

Action for Children's Television, no friend of network kiddy programming, was apparently so impressed by the first airing of NBC's new monthly "Main Street" program for older kids, ACT President Peggy Charren wrote an ad for tomorrow's edition . . .

The full-page ad, which appears in today's Post and six other major newspapers, was paid for by NBC at a cost of $140,500 . . .

Charren called NBC Executive Vice President M.S. Rukeyser with her idea and he immediately told her the network would pay for the unique promotion exposure . . .

The September edition averaged a 3.7 Nielsen rating . . .

Charren's ad, featuring four kids beseeching readers with their pointing fingers, like the old "Uncle Sam Wants You" posters, says: "Attention . . . Families With Kids Over 10 . . . ACT wants you to watch NBC's 'Main Street' " . . .

"In ACT's history, we've never been this supportive of a show," Charren said. "I would never have gone overboard for a dramatic show. But this was nonfiction children's programming, and that's been a black hole on TV" . . .

ACT doesn't endorse programs officially but lobbies for better shows for youngsters, before Congress and other legislative groups . . .

September's "Main Street" had segments on strip searches in schools and a South African boy talking about apartheid . . .

Tomorrow's program will deal with an AIDS sufferer who contracted the disease from a blood transfusion, tougher academic requirements for Texas high school athletes, and a young Mexican girl recalling the recent earthquake . . .