Considering that terrible flap between the White House and ABC News yesterday, TV Column fans (see story on Page A1), this is pretty small beer . . .
But. It looked and sounded like President Reagan jumped the gun by five seconds Wednesday night in opening his foreign policy address from the White House, which would explain why the nation didn't hear the customary "Good evening" greetings . . .
In TV vernacular, his speech was "upcut," or "joined in progress" minus those salutations . . .
Jack Smith, CBS News bureau chief here, whose cameras handled the pool for the speech, said yesterday, "The president left the gate early. I was mightily concerned when I saw it and immediately called the producer." It was Smith's feeling the president just didn't wait for a signal . . .
At the White House, the story was a little different. Said an insider: "President Reagan has never missed a cue in his life. CBS is the one network that doesn't use a stage manager when covering the president's speeches. What happened is, one of the CBS crew gave Mr. Reagan an early cue" . . .
On the upside, however, this insider said "the production and lighting" provided by CBS "was the best to date for any Reagan speech from the Oval Office . . .
"CBS even solved the problem of the teleprompters, which every other network said couldn't be done. The prompters are just like TV sets and in the past they've always been reflected in the windows behind the president when he talks. But CBS solved that. The five seconds isn't nearly that important compared to that" (I think we'd all better sneak out of here, TV Column fans, before this very slim item dies from kindness) . . .
As expected, NBC News has hired Bob Chandler, who was senior vice president of administration at CBS News when he took early retirement last fall, to help save "American Almanac" . . .
Chandler's title and range of responsibility haven't been figured out yet but he's been talking all this week with "Almanac" executive producer Ed Fouhy and Gordon Manning, the NBC vice president in charge of the program . . .
Meanwhile, rumors persist that the ax is going to fall at "Almanac" one of these days . . .
You know, say what you like about ABC News putting that Soviet commentator on Wednesday night for six minutes, it helped the network start "Dynasty" right on time at 9 p.m. . . . which was the whole point of the analysis exercise in the first place . . .
Nielsen announced its February ratings sweeps results yesterday and sure enough, CBS managed to tie NBC at the last minute in that ratings service, too, on the strength of its last three nights of programming . . .
CBS had been trailing going into the final weekend, but two big nights of "Blood & Orchids" and then the Grammy Awards did the trick, as CBS and NBC tied with 17.8 Nielsen ratings and 27 percent audience shares, while ABC trailed at 15.0/23 . . .
The Nielsen sweep ran from Jan. 30 through Feb. 26. Wednesday it was announced that CBS and NBC tied in the Arbitron sweeps, which ran 28 days, too, but finished a day earlier . . .
Regardless, for NBC it was the first time it had won or tied for first in a February ratings sweep contest since 1969 . . . and it racked up its highest February ratings average since 1980 . . . Moving Right Along
Channel 32, the Howard University public television station, announced it will launch its own 16-day fund-raising campaign starting tomorrow night . . .
WHMM hopes to raise $250,000 during the drive, which ends March 16 . . .
ABC Entertainment announced yesterday it will introduce a new daytime show in its morning schedule April 7 called "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous," with Robin Leach as host . . .
Yes, that's a half-hour version of the show seen Sundays at 7 p.m. on Channel 20. Seven hasn't decided yet whether to pick up the ABC version, but it is currently carrying "Hot Streak," the show "Lifestyles" replaces, at 10:30 a.m. . . .
Would the competition bother Channel 20? "Not a bit," said a station spokesman yesterday. "It would probably help us" . . .
"Washington Week in Review" celebrates its 19th anniversary on Channel 26 tonight and as is customary on such occasions, a feature of tonight's broadcast will be the reading of favorite letters received from viewers over the past year . . .
(Our favorite is from the woman in Lexington, Mass., who sent series regular Jack Nelson, L.A. Times bureau chief, two feathers for tickling purposes because she's tired of his "looking so grim, grave, grouchy and grumpy" on the broadcasts) . . .
The show always ranks among PBS' top 10 programs and is currently carried on 285 stations. Ford Motor Co. recently renewed it for next season, its sixth year for such backing . . .
Real "WWIR" fans can buy an extra treat starting tonight during Channel 26's fund-raising breaks . . .
Seems the chaps on the show have put together a book containing their essays and some of the roundtable discussions, called "Beyond Reagan: The Politics of Upheaval." For $150 during the fund-raising drive, veiwers not only get the book but two tickets to a private "Washington Week in Review" autograph party the night of April 15 out at WETA's headquarters in Virginia!!! . . .
NBC's "Today" show continues to show its tail feathers to ABC's "Good Morning America," while "CBS Morning News" continues to see two sets of tail feathers every Thursday morning when the Nielsen ratings for the early morning network race come out . . .
For the week ending Feb. 21, "Today" had a 6.2 tail feather, er, rating and a 27 percent audience share, compared with a 5.1/22 for "GMA" and a 3.0/13 for "Morning News" . . .
Speaking of CBS News, an illness in the family back in New York caused Dan Rather to fly home from Sioux Falls, S.D., early yesterday . . .
Charles Kuralt, who has also been working on the farm problem story that "CBS Evening News" has been following all this week in Texas and South Dakota, filled in last night as anchor . . .
Sign outside the Sioux Falls Holiday Inn where the CBS crew was staying: "Who needs Herb? We have Dan Rather here" . . .