Two Public Broadcasting Service programs were named joint winners of the first annual $2,000 Joan Barone award for excellence in Washington-based national affairs/public policy reporting . . .

The winners were announced last night at the annual Radio and Television Correspondents Association dinner here. RTCA members only are eligible for the prize . . .

A five-part series on the national defense debate from the "MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour" earned an award for correspondents Judy Woodruff and June Cross, senior producer Dan Warner, producer Michael Mosettig and reporters David Shapiro and Peggy Robinson . . .

A "Frontline" broadcast on "the retreat from Beirut" was also honored, with the $1,000 award to be shared by senior producer Sherry Jones, correspondent William Greider and producer Nancy Sloss . . .

The award was established this past winter to honor Joan Barone, the late executive producer of CBS' "Face the Nation," who died of cancer in March 1985 . . .

Judges were Meg Greenfield, editorial page editor of The Washington Post; Burton Benjamin, a senior fellow of the Gannett Center at Columbia University; and Sanford Ungar, dean of the school of communications at American University . . .

A total of $45,000 was raised by eight Washington friends of Mrs. Barone to sustain the annual award, including Ed Fouhy of NBC News; Jack Smith and Rita Braver of CBS News; Washington Post Publisher Donald Graham; Washington attorney Robert Barnett; pollster Peter Hart; and Al Hunt, Washington bureau chief of The Wall Street Journal . . .

NBC Entertainment yesterday announced the renewal of two more series for the fall . . . raising the total of returning NBC series to nine, so far . . .

No surprise was the return of "Miami Vice" for a third year . . .

Along with that announcement was word from NBC Entertainment President Brandon Tartikoff that "NBC and Universal Studios worked out an arrangement allowing the show to continue to shoot entirely on location in Miami" . . .

That arrangement probably means a compromise on the fee NBC pays for "Vice," more than the $950,000 per episode for the first two years of the series. "Vice" is budgeted at about $1.4 million per episode, which is believed to make it the most expensive show on TV . . .

Nor will Ratings Rialto regulars be surprised to learn that "Hunter" will be back on NBC for a third season, too . . .

Since joining the Tuesday night lineup March 11, "Hunter" has raised the ratings for the 9 p.m. time slot formerly occupied by the ebbing "Riptide" by at least 50 percent . . .

"Hunter" hasn't particularly hurt ABC's "Moonlighting" yet -- although it was only one-tenth of a rating point behind "Moonlighting" on March 25 -- but it's knocked CBS' "Mary" and "Foley Square" right off the air as they fell to single-digit Nielsen ratings each week . . .

"ABC World News Tonight" recently tweaked the Armed Forces Network for censoring segments on South Korean political unrest from the March 11 "World News Tonight" and ABC News' "Nightline" of March 13 . . . when the programs were aired for U.S. troops in South Korea . . .

At the conclusion of the broadcast, "World News Tonight" challenged the Armed Forces Network to air the ABC complaint in South Korea . . . which the AFN did . . .

The AFN provides radio and TV programs, mostly from the commercial networks, to some 1,014 U.S. military installations around the globe on a 24-hour basis . . .

Although Pentagon regulations rule out "censorship" of programming, there is a proviso that cautions AFN supervisors, through consultations with U.S. embassies, to be aware of "host country sensitivity" . . .

This week, NBC's "Today" show got a taste of the sensitivity of the South Korean government . . .

A 4 1/2-minute appearance by Korean dissident Kim Dae Jung on Wednesday's "Today" show was blacked out in Seoul . . .

Steve Friedman, executive producer of the "Today" show, said yesterday he had confirmed the deletion with the Armed Forces Network . . .

He said he plans to confer with NBC News President Larry Grossman about the blackout but, in light of the Pentagon regulations, "I don't see how we can do anything about it, in all honesty" . . .

Friedman said "NBC Nightly News," like the ABC programs, has also been censored by AFN in the past . . .

The watchdog Media Access Project here has been tracking the AFN action in South Korea. Director Andy Schwartzman suspects that U.S. military personnel are being deprived of First Amendment rights by the on-site censorship . . .

"Lucy & Ricky's Blessed Event," a 90-minute Channel 5 special culled from 33-year-old "I Love Lucy" reruns, did a 12.7 Nielsen rating and a 20 percent audience share Wednesday night . . .

Also on the Ratings Rialto: NBC's "Today" show won the morning network race again, but just barely . . .

For the week ending April 4, "Today" had a 5.4 Nielsen rating and a 23 share, compared with a 5.0/22 for ABC's "Good Morning America" and a minute 3.0/13 for "CBS There's Nothing Good About Our Ratings This Morning, America" oops, "CBS Morning News" . . . Also in the News

Those fun folks at Channel 4 and WAVA radio are launching a "Today Show Cruise" contest that starts today . . .

"Today," which is getting a lot of space in the TV Column this morning, TV Column fans, will cruise down the East Coast starting May 19 on the SS Norway, tying up at the docks in Miami that Friday, May 23, although WRC says the cruise lasts from May 17 through the 24th . . .

WRC feature reporter Steve Doocy will be on the cruise and will broadcast from the Norway right along with the gang from "Today"! . . .

Viewers and listeners can send in a postcard with their name, address and phone number to Cruise, Box 4, Washington, D.C. 20044. That's Cruise, Box 4, Washington, D.C. 20044 . . .

On April 16, the first of daily drawings will take place on WRC's "Live at Five" newscast. The daily winner will get a "Today" show T-shirt!!! But, best of all, the daily winner's card goes into the Grand Prize Hopper . . . and on April 30 the big winners will be announced . . .

The fifth-place winner will get a Channel 4 News satin jacket!!! Fourth place gets a Walkman radio; third place, a radio-cassette player; second place, a color TV . . . and the grand prize winner gets the Norway cruise trip for two, right along with Steve and the "Today" show gang!!! . . .

No sooner did "CBS Evening News With Dan Rather" announce a five-part series next week on what life will be like in 2001, than "ABC World News Tonight With Peter Jennings" announced it will have a five-part series all next week, too. ABC's is called "The High Cost of Cheap Oil." The OPEC ministers will meet again next week in Geneva . . .

The word is now that no final decision will be made regarding the future of NBC's "American Almanac" (ne': "Profile") until early next week, after NBC News President Larry Grossman returns from the National Association of Broadcasters' convention in Dallas . . .

The delay in announcing an appraisal of the magazine's latest pilot, screened by top News executives early this week, can't be cheering to the "Almanac" staff . . .