Now Here's the News

Production has started on "The Return of Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer," a TV movie for CBS, starring Stacy Keach and Lauren Hutton . . .

It will be filmed in New York, Las Vegas and L.A. . . .

There's been some talk that if the numbers are good when it airs sometime next year, CBS might put the Mike Hammer series back on the schedule. But don't bet your stocking stuffers on that one . . .

Even with all the (unfavorable) publicity after Keach was jailed on a drug rap in Great Britain, the series finished 61st in last season's ratings while maintaining a less-than-bankable 23 percent audience share . . .

NBC News is dispatching "Today" coanchor Bryant Gumbel to Cairo, where he will interview Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak . . .

Plans are to air some of the interview on the Sunday night NBC News show as well as on Monday's "Today" broadcast . . .

Incidentally, NBC executives in town this week for their "Christmas in Washington" program were high on the Gumbel-hosted "Main Street," the monthly afternoon show aimed at a young teen-aged audience . . .

We'd bet a couple of shares of General Electric preferred that Gumbel's stock continues to rise at NBC . . .

Jim Henson, who made the Muppets famous, flew from London to Chicago and back to London Tuesday so he could attend the memorial service at the Goodman Theater for fellow puppeteer Burr Tillstrom . . .

Former FCC chairman Newton Minow delivered the eulogy for the creator of "Kukla, Fran & Ollie" . . .

Louis Rukeyser, host of PBS' "Wall Street Week," is getting a $31,200 raise, approved by the Maryland Board of Public Works . . .

"Wall Street Week" is produced in Baltimore by the Maryland Public Television system, which is largely funded by the state . . .

Rukeyser currently earns $128,800 plus $10,000 in expenses . . .

The board said raising Rukeyser's salary was warranted because the 15-year-old program took in almost $1.2 million during fiscal year 1985 . . .

"Wall Street Week" now ranks third among all PBS programs and has had consistently high ratings in recent years . . .

The board, composed of Gov. Harry Hughes, Comptroller Louis Goldstein and Treasurer William James, also okayed a $3,300 pay raise for the new superintendent of the Maryland State Police . . .

Also in the News

A federal judge in Tacoma ruled yesterday that a Washington state law banning exit polling within 300 feet of a voting place is unconstitutional. U.S. District Judge Jack Tanner ruled in favor of a challenge of the law by ABC, CBS, NBC, The New York Times and The Everett Herald, which is owned by The Washington Post Co. . . .

The plaintiffs contended the real purpose of the 1983 law was to prevent the use of exit polls for early network election projections. The state argued that the law was an effort to maintain order at voting places . . .

NBC News Executive Vice President John Lane today winds up a 10-day trip to South Africa, where he has been meeting with government officials to protest current restrictions on TV coverage of the racial confrontations in some sections of that country . . .

Lane met Wednesday with Ron Miller, deputy minister for foreign affairs . . . NBC executives yesterday declined to discuss what, if any progress, Lane has made. In recent days, the BBC has made similar representations to the South African government . . .

NBC will air "Silver Spoons" in the 8:30 p.m. time slot Saturday night, giving "Gimme a Break" a break for the night . . .

It's apparently a test by the network to see if "Spoons," which is up against "60 Minutes" at 7:30 every Sunday and has the nearly invisible ratings to prove it, has any real audience potential. "Facts of Life," at 8 Saturdays, usually outperforms "Gimme" at 8:30 and then NBC audiences take off at 9 for "The Golden Girls" . . .

Putting "Spoons" in the "hammock" (a little TV jargon there, TV Column fans) between "Facts" and "Girls" is as good a test as any, therefore . . . Channel 26 has acquired "At the Edge of the Union," the BBC documentary about Northern Ireland that last summer created an uproar in Great Britain . . .

The government-controlled network pulled it from the schedule when Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher learned that the program gave a plaform to an alleged Irish Republican Army terrorist . . .

Angered BBC staffers staged a one-day strike and the documentary was finally aired, in a slightly reedited form, in mid-October . . .

When it is aired on PBS Feb. 18, the 43-minute film will be accompanied by an update, produced by WETA, to be shot in Northern Ireland late next month . . .

The one-hour package will be titled "Northern Ireland: At the Edge of the Union" . . .

The documentary, set in Londonderry, focuses on two dedicated young men, alleged IRA leader Martin McGuinness and hard-line Loyalist Gregory Campbell, both elected members of the Northern Ireland Assembly . . .

Dan Haggerty, who starred in "The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams" between 1976 and 1978 on NBC, was sentenced this week to 10 days in jail for failing to file tax returns for two years . . .

Haggerty admitted July 9 he failed to file federal tax returns on income of $562,000 during the years 1978 and 1981 . . .

"I want you to set a good example for kids and show you can take your medicine," U.S. Magistrate John Kronenberg told the actor . . .

The still-bewhiskered Haggerty came to court on crutches, his left leg still healing from a motorcycle accident several months ago . . .

Haggerty is currently appealing his conviction in March for selling a small amount of cocaine to undercover police at his Beverly Hills home . . .

"CBS Evening News With Dan Rather" won the network news race for the week ending Dec. 13 with a 14.3 Nielsen rating and a 24 percent audience share . . .

"ABC World News Tonight With Peter Jennings" was second with a 12.0/21 and "NBC Nightly News With Tom Brokaw" was third at 11.8/20 . . .

The second-place finish for ABC was its first since the second week in October . . .

And Finally

A Salisbury, Md., television station has won a court battle to force a new Wilmington, Del., station to change its call letters to avoid confusion when they compete in central Delaware . . .

Vice Chancellor Jack B. Jacobs ruled this week that Salisbury's WBOC (Channel 16) would be harmed if Channel 61 is called WBOT when it goes on the air next month . . .

WBOT had contended that the channel number is what counts. Jacobs said cable TV companies may assign a station to any available channel and, as a result, the channel number is not a reliable identification . . .

No new call letters have been selected by WBOT, which had already changed its original WDVI call letters to avoid confusion with WPVI in Philadelphia . . .