Airwaves Spoken Here

Sylvia Chase, a top reporter for ABC News' "20/20" since it first went on the air in 1978, is leaving the network to become the 6 and 11 p.m. anchor for KRON in San Francisco, one of the top local stations in the country . . .

Chase was the reporter on the controversial segment developed during this past summer for "20/20" that suggested romantic links between the late Marilyn Monroe and John and Robert Kennedy and possible bugging of the actress' telephone by mobsters . . .

The lengthy segment was finally canceled shortly before air time Oct. 3, after ABC News President Roone Arledge, following a review by top news executives, decided that the case hadn't been made to support the allegations . . .

Chase yesterday denied there was a link between her departure and the rejection of the Monroe piece . . .

"You can't compare the disappointment over that incident and having had so many years with a first-class news organization," she said. She added, however, that "it was a piece of well-sourced journalism and it was no secret that I was disappointed that it didn't air" . . .

Chase said yesterday she had some time ago told her agent "to keep an eye out for a job with a local news operation doing serious journalism" and the opportunity with KRON, which has won two recent Peabody awards for its investigative reporting, was "too good to pass up" . . .

"I think there's been a shift of energy to local journalism in recent years," she said . . .

One source in New York yesterday revealed that the agent had also contacted NBC and CBS. Said one rival network executive yesterday: "She's a loss to the network. She's one hell of an investigative reporter" . . .

Chase came to ABC after first joining CBS News on the West Coast in 1969 and moving to New York with that network in 1971 as a correspondent . . .

Chase said she's particularly proud of an Emmy-Award-winning story she and producer Stanhope Gould did in the first year of "20/20" about exploding automobile gas tanks . . . and a later segment about the dangers of a whooping cough vaccine . . .

Chase has two final segments -- dealing with the widows of men killed in last year's Utah coal mine disaster and a tragedy in Kansas last year when a 14-year-old boy walked into a school with a rifle and killed the principal -- that are still to air on "20/20" . . .

Chase expects to be on the air for KRON in time for the February ratings sweeps period . . .

Channel 32, Howard University's trouble-plagued public TV station, wasn't able to get back on the air yesterday as planned . . .

The station went off the air about 10 days ago to replace cable lines between the transmitter and the antenna that had been burned out earlier this fall, sharply reducing power . . .

Yesterday, acting chief engineer Don Lockett, as the new line was being installed, discovered further possible damage at the antenna due to that burnout . . .

"We'll be testing Tuesday ," Lockett said yesterday, "and hopefully we can get back on the air on Wednesday for sure if the problem isn't too serious" . . . Also in the News

Actress Anne Baxter yesterday remained in a coma in a New York hospital, six days after she was felled by a stroke while walking a Manhattan street on her way to the hairdresser . . .

Miss Baxter played Victoria Cabot, the wealthy owner of the St. Gregory, on ABC's "Hotel" series . . .

ABC News didn't send a camera to Tip O'Neill's 73rd birthday party on the Hill yesterday when aides refused to let a correspondent ask any questions during the proceedings . . .

Phil Donahue (Channel 9 at 9 a.m.) tomorrow will interview NBC's Jane Pauley and Connie Chung, ABC's Carole Simpson and Joan Lunden and CBS' Maria Shriver on the topic of "women in the news" . . .

And Don Hewitt, executive producer of CBS' "60 Minutes," has been named to receive the Sol Taishoff award for excellence in broadcast journalism from the National Press Foundation here at a black-tie dinner Feb. 25 . . .

Previous winners of the award, commemorating the late publisher of Broadcasting magazine, have been ABC's Ted Koppel and NBC's John Chancellor . . .

A puzzled Captain Airwaves (probably over-footballed) kept wondering why Frank Gifford, doing the play-by-play for the San Diego-Pittsburgh NFL game on ABC on Sunday night, kept pointing out how many Monday Night Football scoring records were being threatened as the wild score (54-44, finally) kept mounting . . . Image Awards

The annual National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Image Awards were handed out at a gala in Los Angeles Friday night and, in the television categories anyway, it was a near clean sweep for NBC . . .

The coveted awards mark achievement by and positive imagery of blacks in the media and are awarded for the television, music and movie industries as well as the stage . . .

TV winners Friday night included:

Best episode, comedy or special: "Physician of the Year" episode, "The Cosby Show" . . .

Best performance by an actress in a TV comedy series or special: Phylicia Ayers-Allen, "The Cosby Show" . . .

Best performance by an actor in a TV comedy series or special: Malcolm Jamal-Warner, "The Cosby Show" . . .

Best episode in a dramatic TV series, mini-series or movie: "Miami Vice" pilot episode . . .

Best performance by an actress in a dramatic TV series, mini-series or movie: Debbie Allen, "Fame" . . .

Best performance by an actor in a dramatic TV series, mini-series or movie: Philip Michael Thomas, "Miami Vice" . . .

Best variety TV special or series: "Motown Returns to the Apollo" . . .

Best news or information TV series or special: the "Today" show . . .

In addition, ABC correspondent Kenneth Walker won a special Image Award for his coverage of South Africa . . . Wait, There's More

Channel 26, which had been doing poorly in its current fund-raising drive, raised more than $150,000 over the weekend to boost its total to $336,600 on 7,226 pledges through Sunday night . . . which means, if the Airwaves Abacus is working correctly in this cold weather, the station will have to average $55,000 nightly through the Wednesday night conclusion to make its goal of $500,000 . . . And Finally

A part-time TV cameraman for KDBC in El Paso was critically injured Saturday when he tried to rescue a 6-month-old kitten that had been stranded atop an electric power pole for five days . . .

John Nichols, 21, suffered serious burns but no broken bones when he fell about 20 feet from the pole after being shocked . . .

"I think he was there on assignment and just decided there was no way he was going to leave that cat up there -- against everybody's better judgment, I hate to say," said Bill Mitchell, KDBC operations manager . . .

The kitten's owners said it survived but was badly burned . . .