Now Here's the News

Former White House aide Joanna Bistany has been named a vice president of ABC News . . .

Bistany was a special assistant to the president for communications and deputy to then-White House director of communications David Gergen, during President Reagan's first term . . .

In August 1983 she joined ABC News in New York as director of news information. In March of this year she was named director of special news projects . . .

Among other duties in her new job, she will oversee arrangements for domestic and international syndication of ABC News programming and coordinate ABC News' relations with governmental and private groups . . .

A spokesman for ABC Entertainment Friday denied a persistent West Coast rumor that it's shelved "Amerika," the 16-hour mini-series depicting a harsh Soviet occupation of the United States, which is scheduled to air in 1987 . . .

"That story's been in the L.A. papers twice recently," ABC's Jeff Tolvin said Friday. "It is not true" . . .

Fueling the rumor again late last week was the news out of Geneva that President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev had scheduled two further summit meetings, including one tentatively set for 1987 . . .

That development, suggesting at least a slight thaw in future U.S.-U.S.S.R. relations, has suggested to some connected with the multimillion-dollar "Amerika" project that the network is now under pressure not to release an "anti-Soviet" film in that atmosphere . . .

(Our sources suggested Friday that a more likely reason for a cancellation, should it come to pass, would be close scrutiny of such a costly mini-series by Capital Cities Communications Inc., the budget-minded group that will take over ABC in January) . . .

Channel 20 will air the original (1947) "Miracle on 34th Street" -- which has become something of a holiday "tradition" on TV -- on Thanksgiving evening, starting at 8 p.m. . . .

Well, not quite the original, as filmed in black and white. Sure, Natalie Wood is still sure that Edmund Gwenn is, as he claims, Kris Kringle, but this time they'll show up in color, due to a new process called "computer colorizing" . . .

ABC News will air an "updated" version of its three-hour "45/85" review of the post-World War II era on Super Bowl Sunday, Jan. 26 . . . starting at 12:30 p.m. . . .

The revised program will include the recently completed Geneva summit . . . IBM will again bankroll the broadcast, which drew thousands of letters after its Sept. 18 telecast in prime time . . . Also in the News

C-SPAN, the enterprising public affairs cable network, has received permission from the Federal Communications Commission and the Canadian government to air live telecasts of the daily "question period" in Canada's House of Commons all this week . . .

The 75-minute broadcasts will begin at 1:45 p.m. today through Thursday and at 10:45 a.m. on Friday . . .

The hour-long "question period," during which the prime minister and his cabinet respond to queries from the Opposition, are frequently very lively, indeed . . .

Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reporter John Warren will start each broadcast with a 15-minute summary of the issues likely to come up during the question period each day . . .

Earlier this month, C-SPAN coverage of the U.S. House of Representatives was made available to members of the Canadian Parliament . . .

Channel 5 announced Friday that starting Sunday, Jan. 5, it will air a new weekly program called "Sports Extra" in the 10:30 p.m. time slot . . .

Hosted by Bernie Smilovitz and produced by Ernie Baur, it will recap the week's sports highlights and include interviews and profiles. For the first 10 weeks, the show will also feature appearances by Georgetown University basketball coach John Thompson . . .

Channel 9 said Friday that associate news producer Myrna Statland won't be jumping to Channel 4 after all . . .

Four had announced last week that the Emmy Award-winning producer would join its programming department as a producer . . .

"She changed her mind," a spokesman for Nine said Friday . . .

And speaking of job changes, Anthony Thomopoulos, who quit as president of ABC Broadcast Group last week in anticipation of changes expected when Cap Cities takes over the network in January, has been named president of the motion picture and TV group of the new United Artists Corp. . . .

Ken Swafford, who had played principal Quentin Morloch on the syndicated "Fame" series, has sued MGM Studios for $5.8 million, claiming he was wrongfully fired from the show in October, after filming had begun on the third season . . .

The suit says Swafford was paid $7,700 per episode as principal of a fictional New York high school for the arts. The series, seen on Channel 5 here, is based on the 1980 movie of the same title . . .

On Oct. 15, the suit alleges, he received a letter from MGM senior vice president Karla Davidson, head of the studio's legal department. According to Swafford's attorney, the letter stated the actor had defaulted on his contract, but "the alleged default wasn't specified" . . . Wait, There's More

Cable News Network has been granted permission to routinely receive transmissions of Soviet TV pictures directly from the Soviet satellite system, the Federal Communications Commission announced last week . . .

The permit is subject to instant cancellation without hearing any time "such revocation is in the public or national interest," the FCC said . . .

John Coles, of the FCC's international facilities division, said he did not think the government would use the instant revocation clause to censor reports . . .

"This is not related to content or programming," he said . . .

CNN has obtained permission from time to time to receive special events coverage from the Soviet Union, including last year's telecast of the "Friendship Games," which the Soviets staged after withdrawing from the 1984 Olympics . . .

The CNN license, which Coles said is the first one allowing routine reception from Soviet satellites, expires in six months. CNN may apply for renewal . . .

John Denver will host a "children's summit" TV program next month that will link young people from Minneapolis and Moscow via satellite . . .

The one-hour broadcast, featuring songs and discussions about peace, is in honor of Samantha Smith, the girl from Maine who visited Moscow in 1983 to promote peace and who died in a plane crash last August. She had been a member of ABC's "Lime Street" series cast . . .

PBS will air the program, sponsored in part by the Virginia-based Peace Child Foundation, on Dec. 5. It will first air the night before on WCCO in Minneapolis . . . And Finally

Some 20 holiday specials are coming up on the three networks . . .

ABC, with only three on the books this year, gets the season under way on Saturday with Part I of "The Adventures of Teddy Ruxpin." Teddy is a lovable bearlike "Illiop" who is joined on his adventures, none of which sounds very Christmassy to Captain Airwaves, by his friend Grubby, a caterpillar . . .

CBS will air 11 holiday specials . . .