Trembling tambourines! Channel 26 launches another one of its marathon alms talks on Friday, Feb. 28 . . . this one lasting 17 days and nights . . .

Goals are $650,000 and 13,000 pledges . . .

Last spring's Begathon had a goal of $625,000 but WETA also had "The Jewel in the Crown" on the schedule -- to say nothing of the series' two top stars in person -- and something like $1 million was realized . . .

Beyond the Beltway, Maryland Public Television will also launch a 21-day drive on March 1, looking to a $600,000 goal . . .

But hark! MPT is setting a series of "mini-goals" throughout the drive and if the totals are matched early enough the drive would be shortened (sound of wild cheers from Maryland public TV fans in the background, mingled with cries of "Get smart, WETA!" from overdriven Washington-area public TV fans) . . .

And while we're in the neighborhood, the Maryland Public Broadcasting Commission held a special meeting last week to appoint a search committee to find a replacement for Steve Kimatian, who has resigned as executive director of the system to take a top job at WKBW, the ABC affiliate in Buffalo . . .

The commission also chose an executive management committee that will run things once Kimatian has officially departed, about April 1 . . .

In other MPT news, general manager Warren Parks Jr. has resigned to become director of broadcast operations with the New Hampshire Public Television Network. No replacement has been named . . .

One last public TV note: The annual PBS program auction concluded last week as 154 of the nation's public TV licensees chose 26 series for next season's schedule at a cost of about $39 million . . .

Reflecting the continuing play-it-safe policy of most member stations, only four new series survived the long bidding process, including "American Masters," an art series from WNET in New York; "The Day the Universe Changed," a science series from South Carolina Education Television; and "Adventure," which will be produced by the folks who do "Frontline" . . .

The fourth series, "Search for the Mind," a sequel to "The Brain" series, is not scheduled until the 1987-88 season . . .

Among the familiar returnees will be "Nova," "Great Performances," "American Playhouse," "Sesame Street," "Wall Street Week," "Frontline" and "The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour" . . .

Only two programs now on the PBS schedule failed to be renewed: "Onstage at Wolf Trap" and "Owl TV" . . .

Couldn't help noticing that a couple of the major pain relievers had not withdrawn ads this past weekend in which their products are favorably compared to Tylenol . . . suggesting, to us at least, they were big enough to give the Johnson & Johnson product its due as a still-reliable competitor in sort of a "there-but-for-the-grace-of" gesture . . . Also in the News

Edward M. Joyce, ousted as president of CBS News in December following a tempestuous two years as head of the division, resigned from CBS Friday . . .

In a letter to CBS/Broadcast Group President Gene F. Jankowski, Joyce said that "at this stage in my life, I am interested in exploring other opportunities in areas which offer new challenge. Since these could not be pursued while I am employed by CBS, I have decided to move in that direction and end my affiliation with CBS" . . .

Joyce had been senior vice president of CBS Worldwide Enterprises, the division that sells and distributes CBS News material overseas, since Dec. 4, when he was replaced at News by Van Gordon Sauter . . .

At the time he took the new job, he and Jankowski reportedly reached an understanding that he might be looking around after 34 years with the company . . .

Joyce told a reporter Friday that "over the last couple of months I have received a number of overtures, some of them not interesting, some of them that were, and it became obvious I could not talk seriously with people on the outside if it presented any conflict with CBS . . .

"It reached the point that I thought to myself: I'm 53 and I've got a number of good years ahead of me and it's time to look at the horizon" . . .

He said he expected to make a decision about his future within the next two or three months. A CBS source close to Joyce said he was considering at least four different "serious offers," all of them in the broadcasting area. One venture capital proposition would involve the purchase of broadcast properties, while another could return him to the broadcast news field, this source said . . .

"I have an enormous fondness for CBS," Joyce said Friday. He refused comment on the troubles that plagued his administration as head of CBS News beyond admitting it was "a complex time" . . .

Joyce had been executive vice president of News when he was named president of CBS News in 1983, replacing his longtime friend Sauter, who was promoted to executive vice president of CBS Broadcast Group . . .

Shortly after Joyce took over the division, CBS was confronted with the $120 million libel suit brought by Gen. William C. Westmoreland, a suit ultimately won by CBS when Westmoreland withdrew, but which cost CBS large legal fees and considerable loss of image . . .

During Joyce's reign, various attempts to refurbish "CBS Morning News" failed, most notably and publicly when Sauter's decision to make Phyllis George a coanchor backfired and she resigned, leaving a good deal of dissension within the ranks . . .

Meanwhile, CBS corporate was beset by Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), who targeted CBS News for its "liberal bias" as he launched an unsuccessful attempt to gain control of CBS, even as Ted Turner tried an unfriendly takeover that cost the company hundreds of millions of dollars to defend against . . .

The pressures against the company caused corporate to order a severe manpower cut, which included 125 positions at CBS News. Joyce's handling of the cuts drew criticism, not all of it fair (an ungregarious man, his closed-door management style didn't sit well with many of the high-priced talents in the division, who require a little more "stroking" than one might suspect) . . .

At one bizarre point, a group of News employes headed by Don Hewitt, executive producer of "60 Minutes," actually felt out Jankowski about buying the division from CBS to retain its independence from the outside political pressures . . .

The idea didn't survive the soup course during a Hewitt-Jankowski lunch . . . but the repercussions further unsettled the division to the point where Jankowski brought back Sauter and moved Joyce to what amounted to the sidelines . . .

Friday, Jankowski issued a statement in which he said, "For his years of dedication, talent, loyalty and friendship he has our very fond wishes for success in his new endeavors" . . .

Joyce first joined CBS in 1954 at WBBM-AM, the network-owned radio station in Chicago. He moved up quickly through CBS radio -- helping to create an all-news format at WCBS-AM in New York -- and after a series of major jobs within the CBS television station division, he was named Sauter's assistant in 1981 . . . At Last

We have Channel 9's plans for special news series during the dwindling February ratings sweeps . . .

This week, medical reporter Don Torrance will do a multipart series on organ transplants, Ellen Kingsley will investigate the potential dangers of unsafe levels of lead in tap water in new homes in the area and Jane Van Ryan will look at jobs that produce unusual levels of stress . . .

Mike Buchanan will continue periodic reports that gently spoof Charles Kuralt's "On the Road" series, reports that may turn into a permanent feature on Nine . . .

And prize winner Mark Feldstein may have an investigative report ready in time for the sweeps . . .

Earlier this month, Bruce Johnson reported on the homeless. . .