Corporation for Public Broadcasting President Martin Rubenstein has hired the New York PR firm of Gene Nichols & Associates "to help restructure the CPB public information office" . . .
The action comes six weeks after the CPB board of directors terminated the contract of Ron Webber, the vice president in charge of corporate communications and public information . . .
Webber, whose 30 years in public relations included 20 years in a top job with Alcoa in Pittsburgh was hired last June . . .
That was a month after CPB board chairman Sonia Landau had engaged in a widely publicized confrontation in San Francisco with then-CPB president Ed Pfister, ostensibly over a decision by the board to withdraw its endorsement of a trip by public broadcasters to the Soviet Union to discuss programming exchanges planned for last fall . . .
Pfister and the CPB general counsel resigned the next day in the midst of charges and countercharges over the "politicization" of the board (Landau had claimed CPB had no business authorizing funds for trade negotiations with the Soviets at a time the Reagan White House was at odds with the Soviet leadership) . . .
Sources at CPB this weekend said Webber was criticized by board members for the subsequent rash of unfavorable publicity stemming from the incidents that occurred prior to his arrival at the quasi-federal agency . . . Webber yesterday would not discuss his departure but friends at CPB regard his dismissal as "unfair" . . .
Rubenstein was approved as president of CPB at the same board meeting at which Webber's contract was terminated . . .
Webber, highly regarded in the industry, remains on the CPB payroll through March with the approval of Rubenstein, who said yesterday "I like Ron" but declined further comment on the PR chief's dismissal. . .
Rubenstein said no replacement for Webber in the $60,000-a-year job would probably be named until after Nichols' study has been received . . .
Nichols, whose firm handled PR for the Mutual Broadcasting System when Rubenstein was that radio network's president, said in a statement that "with funds appropriated by the Congress, CPB exists to serve the public. Commercial broadcasters invariably know where they stand with their constituents -- the advertisers, the shareholders and the affiliates . . .
"Rubenstein . . . feels the agency must reach beyond the political and media capitals in order to identify the expectations of public broadcasting's audiences. He plans to increase the visibility of CPB as well as its accountability as an administrator of the public's time and money" . . .
Nichols has also been instructed to study the internal communications at CPB. According to one source, Rubenstein reportedly believes that during the eight months the agency had no president, "the organization stopped communicating with itself" . . .
The PR job, which includes administration of a staff of five, has been a tough one at CPB lately. In January of last year, Webber's predecessor, Stan Harrison, a Pfister loyalist, was dismissed by Landau. He suffered a heart attack shortly thereafter and remained on the payroll until June . . .
Going into the final weekend of its spring Alms Talks, Channel 26 had raised $535,813 toward its $650,000 goal through Thursday night . . .
Thursday and Friday of this week "CBS Evening News With Dan Rather" will air a two-part film report from ace cameraman Mike Hoover on resistance fighters in Afghanistan, including a 10-year-old boy, as they recently captured in Khost . . .
CBS News is calling the segments -- are you ready for this? -- "Khostbusters" . . .
Also in the News
ABC Sports has acquired rights to the June 7 Belmont Stakes, giving the network all three jewels this year in horse racing's Triple Crown, which also includes the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes . . .
CBS has ordered six episodes of "Late Bloomer," starring Lindsay Wagner as a former actress who has gone back to school to become a psychologist . . .
It's a spin-off of a "Kate & Allie" episode. Filming will begin after the birth this summer of Wagner's second child. "Late Bloomer" will probably be a midseason replacement next winter . . .
Bob Hope, whose "Bob Hope's Royal Command Performance From Sweden" airs Wednesday night on NBC, was on the phone Friday to reassure Captain Airwaves that the performance in Stockholm, only days after Prime Minister Olof Palme was assassinated in that city, had the approval of the organizers . . .
Hope said he and his crew had received news of the killing while they were still in the air Feb. 28 en route to Stockholm . . .
"The pilot made the announcement and everybody on the plane just died," said Hope, who added that King Carl XVI Gustav made the decision to go ahead with the March 4 Gala, despite the tragedy . . .
"Ulf Ekelund, the Swedish producer of the Gala, told us that the charity, which raises money for the Children's International Summer Villages, was the favorite charity of Prime Minister Palme. We dedicated the program to the prime minister" . . .
"One half of the hour program features Swedish stars," Hope said, "while celebrities from other countries host the other half. In the past that's included Roger Moore and Danny Kaye" . . .
Hope said the Gala netted $500,000 for the Villages. "Even the dress rehearsal was sold out" . . .
Hope said he did drop one sketch in which he was to play "Olof the Obnoxious" but that he and Emmanuel Lewis make an appearance as a Viking and an Indian chief as had been planned in the sketch . . .
Friday's lunch on behalf of the American Lung Association of Northern Virginia at Alexandria's Radisson Mark Plaza hotel will be served by a group of celebrity waiters and waitresses . . .
They include Scott Clark of WRC; James Adams and Yolanda Gaskins of WTTG; Paul Berry, Wes Sarginson and Dave Sweeney of WJLA; Mike Buchanan, Doug Hill and Jane Van Ryan of WDVM; Dick Dszel of WDCA; and Peter Quinn Hackes, of "Entertainment Tonight" . . .
ABC Entertainment has announced that "North and South: Book II" will air for two hours each on the nights of May 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 11 from 9 to 11 p.m. . . .
In addition to regulars from Book I, the 12-hour mini-series will include appearances by Jean Simmons, Lloyd Bridges, Olivia de Havilland, James Stewart and the ubiquitous Linda Evans . . .
There have been cast and format changes galore on NBC's "Hill Street Blues" this season but we suspect the one viewers appreciate most is the reduction of reruns during the season from eight to just three . . .
The nostalgia craze continues on network TV, as CBS announces it will bring back Forrest Tucker and Larry Storch or a two-hour movie about "F Troop," the series that had a three-year run on ABC from 1965-67 . . .
Oh, Oh. The Academy Awards a week from tonight on ABC may dispense with those warning lights that kept acceptance speeches short last year . . . Producers want to keep the proceedings moving but they miss the old opportunity for some news-making comments from the winners . . . Oscar ratings in the last three years have dropped from a 38.0 Nielsen count and a 59 percent audience share in 1983 to just 27.7/45 last spring . . .