Now Here's the News

Is something resembling an Era of Tranquility about to dawn at divided, rumor-swept, budget-cut CBS News, now that Van Gordon Sauter is back as president of the division? . . .

Probably yes -- to the degree that a talent-packed outfit like CBS News, with the usual percentage of talented grumblers on board, is ever tranquil . . .

A check with a couple of insiders Friday -- the day after CBS News President Ed Joyce was dispatched to CBS' overseas marketing division -- suggested that "morale" was already "up," although there were no reports of dancing out front on W. 57th Street . . .

"The spirit is better already, but keep in mind that's because the decision to make a change at the top is finally in," said one. "Despite what has been written there are very few people here who had ill feelings about Ed Joyce. Sure, lots of people didn't particularly like his management style. He was distant . . .

"With Van, at least we know that he's going to be around the shop every minute. He's a real hands-on sort of guy. We have troubles, we can tell him to his face" . . .

Sauter, who retained his CBS Broadcast Group executive vice presidency with the move back to the News presidency, was unavailable Friday, attending a CBS Southeast regional affiliates meeting in Florida . . .

But a close associate reported that Sauter, who had been News president between 1981 and 1983, was "excited" about his return. He guessed that Sauter believed his main job would be to "put the house back together and get everybody marching to the same tune again" . . .

The News division lost 74 people to a budget cut earlier this year, and there had been grumbling that Joyce and Sauter -- who oversaw the News from Broadcast Group -- hadn't fought hard enough against the cuts. In addition, there are those who believe News management hasn't been as committed to "hard news" as the CBS traditionalists would have it . . .

"There's maybe eight or nine unhappy people within the News division," this source suggested, "and it will be Van's job to get them back on 'the reservation,' as he likes to put it" . . .

This source saw few major changes coming. "CBS Morning News," the division's largest and longest-running headache, has apparently settled down since the arrivals of Forrest Sawyer and Maria Shriver as anchors and Johnathan Rodgers as executive producer . . .

"You can expect that Howard Stringer, executive vice president of News will continue to put some additional touches in the show but other than that don't expect any more major changes there . . .

"One thing that's been kind of overlooked," this source said. "Van's brought in David Fuchs from Broadcast Group. He's had 33 years with the company and nine of those he was a documentary producer and vice president of public-affairs broadcasts at CBS News. He represents the kind of continuity at News that the veterans can relate to. When the division lost some of the old-timers because of that budget cut in October, it hurt more than people realized. Bringing in David as his assistant, and with the title of senior vice president, will help, too" . . . In Other News

ABC Entertainment may announce some midseason schedule changes this week . . . while NBC is now going to announce its changes on Dec. 16, instead of the 13th . . .

Which reminds us: Entertainment President Brandon Tartikoff, who has very nearly wrapped up the 1985-86 prime-time ratings race already, sat down for the first time last week with the NBC News editorial board . . . He reiterated plans to put the "American Almanac" magazine on the weekly schedule in March (if we had to guess it would be very late March, just as close to the mid-April end of the regular ratings season as possible) . . .

Which also reminds us: NBC News President Larry Grossman was out in Anaheim, Calif., last week working the Western Cable Television Show, where some 8,000 cable operators were gathered . . .

Grossman reportedly signed up systems for NBC's 24-hour cable news service that reaches 2 million of the nation's 35 million cable homes . . .

That's far short of the 13.5 million cable homes Grossman wants signed up by Jan. 31 (he's already slid that deadline from Dec. 13) . . . before giving a go-ahead for a June start-up of the news service . . .

Reports from Anaheim indicate that Ted Turner's established Cable News Network, fighting the NBC attempt, signed up two of the biggest systems last week, but had to sweeten the deals more than he liked . . .

Meanwhile, the board of RCA (NBC's parent company) last week established a subsidiary called NBC Cable, formally backing Grossman's negotiation attempts . . .

Pamela Bellwood, who plays Claudia Blaisdel Carrington on ABC's "Dynasty," gave birth to a 5-pound 14-ounce boy Friday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles . . . Her husband is photojournalist Nik Wheeler . . .

CBS Entertainment has to get busy. Its Wednesday premiere of "Mary," starring Mary Tyler Moore, was supposed to be about people working at a fictitious but scruffy paper called the "Chicago Post" . . .

But the owners of the real Chicago Post, a nonscruffy monthly newspaper with a circulation of 40,000, took CBS and MTM Enterprises, the series' producers, to court, asking $4 million for trademark infringement.

Friday, attorneys for the network told U.S. District Judge Ann Williams that scenes using the name will be reshot before Wednesday's premiere. And that could be tough because beyond dubbing voices, there's a key scene, showing the words "Chicago Post" atop an arched doorway, that has to be reshot . . .

No hint of what the newspaper's new name will be . . .

Channel 26's current fund-raising drive was running at least 22 percent behind its goal through Thursday night's telecasts . . .

With the 13-day drive for $500,000 due to end Wednesday night, WETA had raised $201,600 on almost 4,000 pledges . . .

They're steam-cleaning the carpets at the big basement newsroom over at the ABC News bureau here this week, so "World News This Morning" and "Nightline" will come out of New York today and tomorrow . . . And Finally

A panel of three U.S. Court of Appeals judges here last week affirmed a Federal Communications Commission ruling that a Dec. 9, 1979, CBS "60 Minutes" broadcast about California medical-insurance fraud during which Dr. Carl Galloway was mentioned had not violated the FCC's personal-attack rule and its policy against deliberate news distortion . . .

Galloway had petitioned the FCC to revoke the licenses of CBS' owned-and-operated TV stations. When the FCC ruled again him, Galloway took it to the federal court here . . .

Galloway had earlier sued CBS for libel in the state courts of California, claiming that his name had been forged to a bill -- referred to on the broadcast -- that listed 19 separate visits to a California clinic on the part of a suspect in a fraudulent medical-claim case . . .

In Friday's decision, written by Judge J. Skelly Wright, the court pointed out that in the course of that libel trial, Galloway "received a great deal of information, including film or tape that was shot for the broadcast but never aired 'outtakes' ," material that formed the basis of his complaint to the FCC . . .

The trial over the libel suit, which Galloway lost and is now appealing, was highly publicized due to the appearance of "CBS Evening News" anchor Dan Rather, in his role as the 1979 "60 Minutes" correspondent for the segment . . .

The three-judge panel, which also included Abner J. Mikva and Daniel M. Friedman, ruled that Galloway failed to establish that any personal attack came during the discussion of a "controversial issue of public importance" . . .

The judges also rejected his claim on deliberate distortion, citing a series of FCC policy decisions regarding rigging, staging or distorting the news on broadcasts . . .

Galloway had complained of techniques used on four interviews seen on the segment . . .

In one, an insurance investigator interrogated an insurance claimant. In two separate tapings, the claimant first professed the legitimacy of her claim and then confessed to her participation in the fraud. Garroway contended that that incident and another, not used in the broadcast involving a second woman, "clearly shows that what CBS maintained were spontanteous interrogations were, in reality, staged interviews performed for the benefit of and at the behest of CBS news personnel" . . .

Upholding the FCC decision that the "distortion is not significant," Wright said that "whatever we may think of this playacting as a journalistic practice, it does not violate FCC rules as currently applied" . . .

In another interview, an attorney who faced disbarment after having participated in insurance fraud was questioned by Rather, who asked, "If I were an attorney and I sought to specialize in these kinds of cases, could I make a quarter of a million dollars a year, half-million dollars a year?" . . .

In three different taped responses, the attorney answered "so long as you were successful," "it's simply not worth it" and "quite easily." On the program, the attorney responded "yes," but he was responding to a completely different question . . .

The court agreed with the FCC that the decision not to include the attorney's cautionary remarks is more "a matter of editorial discretion . . . than an act of deliberate distortion," since the attorney's answer to the original question "was clearly affirmative". . .

Wright concluded: "Whatever one may think of the production techniques employed by '60 Minutes' . . . these techniques are not violations of FCC rules" . . .