Now Here's the News

No contract has been signed yet, but Chris Wallace, chief White House correspondent for NBC News, has agreed to remain with the network through Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, 1989 . . .

In addition to his White House assignment under the new three-year pact, his new duties will include anchoring the Sunday evening edition of "NBC Nightly News," starting early next year, replacing John Palmer, who has held the spot since January 1984. Palmer is a favorite of News executives for his news role on the improving "Today" show . . .

Wallace will also serve as a floor reporter during the 1988 national political conventions . . .

As reported here several weeks ago, ABC News had made a strong bid for Wallace with a package that, following the departures of Geraldo Rivera and Sylvia Chase, included a major role on "20/20" . . .

Reached at his home yesterday, Wallace said, "It was a very attractive offer and I was really gratified by ABC's interest. I think it's a first-rate network . . .

"But I've spent 10 years at NBC and really felt that it's 'family.' I've been there through some not-so-good times and I want to stay with the good times. I really feel [NBC News President] Larry Grossman has turned the place around and I didn't want to leave when I think NBC News is really hitting its stride" . . .

Earlier this year, Wallace left agent Ed Hookstratten, who handles many top NBC talents, to sign with Washington attorney Bob Barnett . . .

Wallace has been at the White House since 1983 for NBC. He first joined the network covering the House in 1978, became a principal reporter on the magazine "Prime Time," then joined "Nightly News" special segments in Washington and served as a coanchor of the "Today" show. In 1980 he covered Sen. Edward M. Kennedy's primary race and then followed Ronald Reagan in his successful campaign that fall . . .

Wallace's first taste of TV was at WBBM, the CBS-owned station in Chicago, which he joined after serving as a reporter on The Boston Globe for three years . . . He then moved to WNBC in New York before joining the network here . . .

Meanwhile, CBS' White House correspondent and "Face the Nation" anchor Lesley Stahl, also up for a new contract, is reportedly near renewing with the network . . . TV Ratingzzz

ABC, thanks to another sterling performance from its Monday night football, won three nights last week . . .

Didn't do 'em any good, though. ABC also took Tuesday and Wednesday nights as per usual but front-runner NBC still took the week (winning Thursday and Saturday) with a 16.5 Nielsen rating and a 27 percent audience share . . .

CBS (Friday and Sunday) was second by a narrow margin with a 16.5/27, while ABC trailed at 14.8/24 . . .

After 13 weeks of the 1985-86 season, NBC leads with a 17.7 overall rating, eight-tenths of a Nielsen point ahead of CBS and 2.2 ahead of ABC . . .

Sidewalks outside the Prime-Time Pantheon were crowded with hopefuls again last week, despite the intense cold. Pantheon management thoughtfully provided fires along the march route but little encouragement, otherwise . . .

A Pantheon spokesperson braved the cold long enough to point out that "the 'Cosby' rerun last week did a 33.1 rating and a 52 share. When it was an original episode this fall, it did 'only' a 31.6/48" . . .

Nevertheless, supplicants included the Andy Williams special on NBC, tied for 26th for the week, and NBC's "Silver Spoons," which rose to 36th (and a 28 share) in a Saturday night tryout . . .

Not noted at the Pantheon were "The Colbys" from ABC, who continued to flounder in 40th place. With a 23 share, yet . . .

"The Colbys" don't really care at this point. ABC has just bought 11 additional episodes for a total of 24, which means the "Dynasty" spinoff will run right through the May ratings sweeps . . .

The Denver-Seattle NFL game on ABC Friday night was 48th, while a couple of tired movie reruns, "Blazing Saddles" on CBS and "Conan the Barbarian" on NBC, tied for 53rd . . . "Kissyfur" on NBC was 59th . . .

The Final Five included ABC's "Lady Blue" in 62nd place, followed, in order, by a repeat of a Chipmunks special on NBC; a new episode of ABC's "Fall Guy"; a repeat of ABC's "Ripley"; and a new episode of ABC's "Shadow Chasers," who chased their tails to 66th and last place for the week ending Dec. 22 . . . Also in the News

If you've been having trouble picking up Channel 45 out of Baltimore this week, turns out that WBFF has been on the air but at reduced power the last few days while transmitting from a standby antenna that is 400 feet shorter than its regular 700-foot tower in Catonsville, Md. . . .

Dave Smith, director of engineering, said they hope to be operating from the 700-foot tower again by Saturday . . .

The cold weather has hampered riggers working on the tower . . .

The station is currently operating at about 200,000 watts but will eventually return to nearly 5 million watts, Smith said . . .

More importantly, movie fans, in another 60 to 70 days, the station will be operating with a new antenna that should, said Smith, "increase our signal strength by 10 times" (the movies on 45 and the cowboy series reruns on the Christian Broadcasting Network are a couple of Airwaves' favorites) . . .

Starting Sunday, Jan. 5, "This Week With David Brinkley" will join the long list of ABC programs that are closed-captioned for the hearing-impaired . . .

And in Boston, two stations -- ABC affiliate WCVB and public broadcasting's WGBH -- will begin closed-captioning their local evening news programs sometime in March . . .

They are believed to be the first local stations in the country to offer the service for such programs . . .

WCVB will closed-caption its hour-long 6 p.m. news and a local 30-minute news magazine show, "Chronicle," at 7:30 p.m. . . .

WGBH, which has a captioning center that WCVB will use, plans to closed-caption its 10 p.m. news show . . .

The third episode of CBS' "Mary," preempted by Nine in this market for a Statlers syndicated special Wednesday, averaged a 10.8 rating and a 23 percent share in Nielsen's other 11 major city markets . . .

That is not good for Mary, who so far shows a big drop in those overnight figures when the smaller markets -- which apparently don't appreciate the latest, tough-talking incarnation of Mary Tyler Moore -- are counted in the national totals . . .

In the first week, "Mary" fell from 19.5/30 in the overnights to 17.1/26 in the national count and in her second outing from 16.4/26 to 14.3/23 . . .

It's not good for CBS, either, which had counted on "Mary" getting a foothold at 8 p.m. to help turn around one of the network's losingest nights of the week . . .

Poor NBC. Moved its eight-hour mini-series "Peter the Great" from Feb. 23-26 to Feb. 2-5 to avoid a big three-hour Grammy Awards show on CBS on the third night of "Peter" as first scheduled . . .

Now CBS has scheduled the three-part "Sins," starring Joan Collins as an ex-model-turned-foremost-fashion publisher, from Feb. 2 to 4 . . . All maneuvers due to the key February ratings sweeps battle . . .