The decision by President Reagan and congressional leaders -- in the wake of the shuttle tragedy -- to reschedule his State of the Union address for next Tuesday night has thrown a small monkey wrench into the CBS and NBC schedules for that evening . . .
CBS will be concluding its mini-series "Sins" that night with two hours starting at 9 p.m., and NBC is due to air the two-hour part III of "Peter the Great" at the same hour . . .
The very thought that CBS and NBC might be having trouble with a couple of big-ticket items at the start of the February sweeps prompted a mischief-maker -- reportedly at a rival network in New York -- to call around yesterday morning suggesting that somehow both CBS and NBC were "pressuring" the White House to reschedule the State of the Union message for 8 p.m. . . .
Stout denials from CBS and NBC were promptly issued, and at noon White House principal deputy press secretary Larry Speakes announced the 9 p.m. start time for the president's address . . .
An amused Speakes later told a reporter that he's "never heard a word from a network." He explained that "most of the time" when the president is due to make a TV appearance -- press conferences and the like -- the White House will contact the networks to check for possible major scheduling conflicts . . .
But in the case of a major address like such as the State of the Union, involving Congress, which invites the president under a joint resolution, no courtesy check is considered necessary . . .
NBC News bureau chief Bob McFarland, whose cameras will provide the pool for next Tuesday's speech, routinely contacted Speakes' office late yesterday to make arrangements. But he, like CBS News bureau chief Jack Smith, bristled at the suggestion his or any network would attempt to "pressure" the administration . . .
Neither CBS nor NBC had finalized its revised primetime entertainment schedule late yesterday for next Tuesday night. As a guess, it would seem both will slide the start of their mini-series to follow what is expected to be a 15-minute address by Mr. Reagan and a Democratic response of about equal duration . . .
With network commentary, too, "Sins" and "Peter the Great" will probably both be on the air starting at 10 p.m. next Tuesday . . .
Speaking of Peter, ABC's Jennings, that is, he's changed his schedule for next week in order to be in Washington for the State of the Union message. Instead of going to the Philippines to cover the presidential election this coming weekend, he'll leave the United States on Wednesday next, broadcasting from Manila on Thursday and Friday only, instead . . .
And Tom, NBC's Brokaw, that is, has canceled his planned trip to Manila altogether and will be doing "NBC Nightly News With Tom Brokaw" from Washington on Feb. 4 for the State of the Union . . .
Dan, CBS' Rather, never had plans to go to the Philippines in the first place . . .
Both ABC and NBC yesterday announced their anchors will be in Houston tomorrow covering the midday memorial services for the seven crew members of Challenger . . . Late yesterday, CBS News had not made a decision on sending Rather, although a spokesman said she was "certain" the network would cover the ceremonies . . .
Also in the News
Preliminary reports from Nielsen yesterday indicated that Jennings' and ABC's coverage of the shuttle tragedy were favorites among the nation's viewers . . .
In Nielsen's 12 major markets, from approximately 11:45 a.m. until 5:15 p.m. Tuesday, ABC averaged an 11.5 rating and a 28 percent audience share . . .
NBC News, with Tom Brokaw, averaged a 9.0/22 and CBS with Dan Rather had an 8.5/21 . . .
Incidentally, industry analysts estimated the three networks lost a total of $9 million in advertising revenues Tuesday while covering the Challenger, including $5.5 million during the afternoon broadcasts . . .
In Washington, where CBS (WDVM) usually prevails, Arbitron figures showed CBS was the favorite during the afternoon with an 11.5/27, followed by ABC (WJLA) at 10.8/25 and NBC (WRC) with 7.5/18 . . . Local Nielsen figures showed the same 1-2-3 rankings . . .
Tuesday night, ABC News again led the 12 markets for the one hour specials by all three neteworks on the Challenger story. ABC scored a 17.4/28, helped mightily by the "Moonlighting" lead-in, followed by NBC with an 11.7/19 and an 8.9/14 for CBS . . .
"CBS Morning News" executive producer Johnathan Rodgers expects to have the full "family" of regular experts and correspondents lined up for the program by March . . .
He won't comment, but we've heard he plans to make some changes in the producer ranks as the third-rated morning show gears up once more for a grab at the brass ring . . .
The Public Broadcasting Service yesterday fed a special called "The Shuttle Tragedy: Helping Our Young People Cope," which was prepared overnight by New Hampshire Public Television of Durham . . .
The half-hour program features local teachers and parents as they worked Tuesday night with young people in the area who had watched the explosion of Challenger . . . Among the seven victims was Concord, N.H., schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe . . .
Guests included Joshua Meyrowitz, Bruce Mallory and Liz Butcher, all on the faculty of the University of New Hampshire . . .
No information was available yesterday as to whether Channel 26 would air the special . . .
Denise Kovacevic Yamada will join "Good Morning America" as field reporter, replacing Kathy Lee Johnson . . . She's been an anchor at KATV in Portland, Ore. Johnson has joined Regis Philbin's TV show in New York . . .
"CBS Evening News With Dan Rather" bounced back after a slight scare last week to a solid 13.6 Nielsen rating and a 23 percent audience share for the week ending Jan. 24. That was a full 1.4-point margin over "NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw," at 12.2/21 . . . and an 11.5/19 for "ABC World News Tonight with Peter Jennings" . . .
The previous week, CBS had a 13.8/23, while NBC did a 13.1/22. In early November NBC had also come within seven-tenths of a point, but before that you had to go back to something like 1982 to find the network that close . . .
John Kluge, whose Metromedia empire got started right here with Channel 5, made a farewell visit to the station Tuesday morning -- he's visiting all Metromedia stations -- in anticipation of the takeover by Rupert Murdoch's Fox Television Co. in March . . .
He was in the middle of a sentimental address in a WTTG studio when news of the shuttle explosion broke and the entire news staff politely walked out on him . . .
Incidentally, WTTG management will report to a new boss soon. He's Derk Zimmerman, now president of Fox Televisison Stations . . .
Zimmerman had been general manager of WFLD, the Metromedia station in Chicago. He will replace Hal Christiansen, executive vice president of Metromedia TV Stations, who has been acting head of the division since the departure of Dick Block . . .
Fortunately for Captain Airwaves, Captain Airwaves couldn't talk anybody at ABC Sports in New York into checking Jim Spence's 28th-floor office yesterday, but the rumor is strong that the Sports senior vice president cleared out his desk last weekend after Dennis Swanson was named the new president of the division . . .
The "official" word at ABC Sports is that "Jim is taking the week off" and is not talking to the press . . .
The unofficial word is that "Jim won't talk until he settles his severance pay agreement or gets another job in the company" . . .
Spence's career at ABC Sports tracked that of Roone Arledge from 1960 on. Arledge rewarded him with the job of senior VP in 1978. Known as a good administrator -- who ran ABC Sports on a day-to-day basis for Arledge when the latter held the top jobs at both Sports and News -- Spence also won four Emmys for "Wide World of Sports" and shouldn't have a bit of trouble finding a new challenge . . .