Now Here's the News

Channel 7's noon news show was off the air for three minutes yesterday when a Tektronix R-149 signal generator quit working. Engineers quickly patched around it and the station was back on the air at 12:31:34 p.m. Eastern Standard Time . . .

Captain Airwaves will not even attempt to explain what a Tektronix R-149 signal generator is. Oh, sure he knows, but he wouldn't want to get you all confused this early in the morning with all kinds of technical details. Life is already complex enough, says Captain Airwaves . . .

Good grief! Toward the end of Wednesday night's episode of "Highway to Heaven," of all programs, there was a scene in which a mouse ran across a piece of paper. On the paper, written plain for the camera to pick up, was the word (are the kiddies on the way to school?) "scum bag"!!! . . .

When repeated next year, NBC promises that the Halloween episode will not include the words s--- b--! . . . The network in New York received 34 complaining phone calls. In Washington, Channel 4 reported nary a complaint . . .

Discount those rumors that CBS Entertainment Vice President Harvey Shephard may be headed for ABC to take over that troubled network's programming . . .

Shephard, who's busy right now trying to patch up the holes in CBS' new fall lineup, was the chap who threw "Murder, She Wrote" into the Sunday schedule last year and saved that night from disaster . . . and CBS has him wrapped up in a real nice long-term contract . . .

As for the status of ABC Entertainment President Lew Erlicht, whom the rumors have Shephard replacing, don't expect any decision on his future -- if indeed any change will be made -- until after the first of the year, when the ABC Inc./Capital Cities Communications merger has been completed . . .

Incidentally, Erlicht's decision to move "Spenser: For Hire" out of that deadly Friday night 10 p.m. slot to 10 p.m. Tuesday paid off this week . . .

In his last Friday outing, "Spenser" finished 65th among 66 programs rated for the week with a 9.0 Nielsen rating and a 15 share, and in his previous outings this year, he had averaged an 8.9 . . .

For the Tuesday debut this week, "Spenser" did a 15.0/25, not quite good enough to edge out "Remington Steele" or the CBS movie during its time period, but the performance was far better than that of the show "Spenser" replaced, "Our Family Honor," and should increase ABC's Tuesday night winning margin considerably . . .

ABC, patching up another troubled night, has also announced that its new "comedy-adventure," "Shadow Chasers," will debut with a two-hour premiere Thursday, Nov. 14, at 8 p.m. . . .

The "Ghostbusters" rip-off, starring Dennis Dugan, Trevor Eve and Nina Foch, will air subsequently at 8 Thursdays in place of the fallen "Fall Guy" . . . Also in the News

Starting Monday, Channel 9 will air a five-part series during its 6 p.m. news detailing WDVM consumer reporter Ellen Kingsley's battle with breast cancer, which began last February . . .

She and reporter Jane Van Ryan collaborated on the weeklong series . . .

Earlier Monday, Kingsley will join Carol Randolph at 10 a.m. for a live half-hour discussion on WDVM about recent developments in breast cancer detection, treatment and prevention . . .

Kingsley will be accompanied by her husband, psychiatrist Dr. Robert Hirschfeld, and a breast cancer expert . . .

The consumer reporter has been able to return to work on a limited basis since her treatment . . .

Here's how the various local Redskin programs are doing after the first eight weeks of the NFL season . . .

In the Nielsen ratings, the John Riggins show (6:30 p.m. Mondays on WJLA) is first with an 8.6 rating and a 15 share, followed by "Redskin Sidelines" (7:30 p.m. Saturdays on WDVM) with an 8.5/17; the "George Michael/Joe Theismann Redskin Report" (7 p.m. Saturdays on WRC) with a 7.9/17; the Joe Gibbs show (Sundays at noon on WDVM) at 7.7/23; and "Redskins Playbook" (8:30 Mondays on WTTG) with 7.0/10 . . . In the Arbitron ratings, the Riggins show (WJLA) leads with a 9.3/18, followed by Michael/Theismann (WRC) at 7.4/17; the Joe Gibbs show (WDVM), 7.4/24; "Redskins Sidelines" (WDVM) at 6.5/15; and "Redskins Playbook" (WTTG) at 6.1/10 . . .

Gene F. Jankowski, president of CBS/Broadcast Group, will be at Georgetown University the evening of Thursday, Nov. 14, to show a 48-minute film produced by CBS that gives a peek behind the scenes of CBS' entertainment, news and sports divisions . . .

Open to the public, the film will be shown at the ICC auditorium at 37th and O streets NW. Jankowski, who has taken the film to other college campuses, will be taking questions . . . although, for gosh sakes, don't ask him about that lunch with Don Hewitt . . . AIDS

On Monday, Nov. 11, NBC Entertainment will air a two-hour movie called "An Early Frost." It tells the story of a successful young lawyer who learns he is dying of acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) and how his parents, unaware that he is homosexual, and the community at large, react to his illness . . .

NBC News announced yesterday that following the telecast, Tom Brokaw will anchor a half-hour special on AIDS at 11:30 p.m. . . .

Meanwhile, in Hollywood this week, the Screen Actors Guild, reacting to current worries in the TV and movie industries, said Wednesday that its members could refuse to perform "open-mouth" kissing scenes if they were not notified in advance that such scenes were coming up . . .

The SAG policy statement, contained in a letter sent out this week to 6,000 producers and actors' agents, marked the first public stand by a major actors' union on the kissing issue, which has been of considerable concern to performers ever since the disclosure that the late actor Rock Hudson had the incurable disease . . .

Three weeks ago, another major performers' union, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, issued a similar policy statement to its members. The AFTRA statement did not specify AIDS and open-mouth kissing, but said its members "should and do have the right to refuse contact with anyone whom they believe may have any communicable disease" . . .

The SAG letter was promptly disputed by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which contended that the guild had no medical or legal basis for letting its members balk at kissing scenes. SAG had cited what it called "the lack of clear and consistent medical opinion" on how AIDS is transmitted . . .

Notification of such kissing scenes must come before an actor signs for a role, the talent union said . . .

"Under this health crisis, some actors may feel open-mouth kissing is hazardous," said SAG Third National Vice President Dean Santoro. "We are not saying it is. This is not a medical bulletin. It's a labor matter." . . .

SAG spokesman Mark Locher said "we haven't had any complaints from actors. This is more a preventative measure" . . .

SAG also warned that rejecting an actor because of homosexuality is a violation of its contract clause against discrimination. Guild officials were careful to stress they were not aware of any such discrimination . . .

The Producers Alliance will respond officially to the letter in a few days, according to Carol Akiyama, an Alliance senior vice president . . .

However, Akiyama said that she does not believe the guidelines are workable and that they may unfairly stigmatize gay performers. She also noted that there are no examples of cases in which AIDS has been spread by saliva . . .

"We believe SAG has good-faith motives, but how do you know who has AIDS?" she said . . .