The touching story of "Alex: Life of a Child" on ABC did very well in the national Nielsen ratings Wednesday night and in the bargain became the network's highest-rated TV movie of the year . . .

Frank Deford's account of the death of his daughter from cystic fibrosis at the age of 8 -- and the family's subsequent decision to adopt another little girl -- had a 21.7 rating (reaching about 18.6 million TV homes) and a strong 36 percent audience share . . .

A repeat of "The Seduction of Gina" on CBS did a 10.3/17, while "Blacke's Magic" and "Missing: Have You Seen This Person?" on NBC combined for an 11.9/20 . . .

A spokesman for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation reported that the 800 number (a service donated by a corporation) displayed during "Alex" "was ringing off the hook" with donation pledges . . .

That number, incidentally, is 1-800-833-7000, and will be in service for another month . . .

The big news at CBS Entertainment yesterday was the resignation of programs vice president Harvey Shephard, who leaves the network after nearly 20 years to become president of Warner Bros. Television Production Division . . .

Kim LeMasters, who has been vice president, mini-series, for CBS Entertainment, replaces Shephard . . .

In moving to Warners, Shephard rejoins his old boss, Robert A. Daly, who is chairman and chief executive officer of Warner Bros. Inc. Daly was the first president of the Entertainment Division when CBS reorganized its operation in 1977. Daly moved to Warner Bros. in January 1981 . . .

The current president of CBS Entertainment, B. Donald (Bud) Grant, recently signed a new long-term contract. Sources indicate that foreclosed Shephard's chances to move to the top spot in the foreseeable future and figured in his decision to leave . . .

The sources also discount any talk that Shephard left because CBS had slipped to second place in the recently concluded 1985-86 primetime ratings race . . . after six straight years in first . . .

"Harvey was six and one and you can't do much better than that," one CBS executive commented yesterday. "He waited until he got the 1986 fall schedule in place before leaving" . . .

The general feeling is that Grant has lost a valuable aide who had had considerable say-so in the key programming decisions that have kept CBS at or near the top for years . . .

In a statement yesterday, Grant said that "Harvey Shephard's achievements in his six years as head of programming for CBS Entertainment have been extraordinary. We have been colleagues and friends for many years, and I know he will continue to have great success in his new position, which is a creative opportunity that he could not refuse" . . .

LeMasters first joined CBS in 1976 as director, dramatic program development. He left the network in 1984 to serve as vice president, motion picture production, for Walt Disney Productions . . .

On his return in January 1985, he was named to the mini-series post . . .

The word around Washington yesterday is that the newest name for NBC's off-again, off-again "American Almanac" magazine project is "86/87" with the "86" placed directly above the "87" in the actual logo. That replaces "Profiles" as a working title replacing "American Almanac" . . .

The one-hour program, whose debut as a regular weekly show has been delayed three times by unhappy executives at NBC News, reportedly will finally premiere on Tuesday, June 10, in the 10 p.m. time slot . . . which is probably the best news the cast of "The Equalizer" has had all year . . . Also in the News

Robin Young is getting a test on "NBC News at Sunrise" that will run through next week . . .

The former NBC News correspondent has been free-lancing in Boston most recently . . .

That early, early morning job has been up for grabs for some time, in the absence of Connie Chung, who's been busy with her job on "86/And Maybe 87" . . .

Bob Jamieson has been the principal substitute but NBC News, which also plans to rotate the "Today" coanchor spot when Jane Pauley departs on maternity leave in July, apparently is delaying a decision on a permanent "Sunrise" anchor . . .

The A.C. Nielsen people met with local TV executives here yesterday to talk about the ratings sample, which every station except Channel 9 thinks currently favors Channel 9 . . .

One immediate result: the ratings firm plans to add additional meters, bringing the local count up to 425 by the start of the May ratings sweeps, which, according to the Official Airwaves Calender and Lawn Tending Guide, starts next Thursday (Arbitron begins Wednesday) . . .

CBS Sports yesterday announced that Boston Globe sportswriter Will McDonough will join the cast of "NFL Today" next fall as a "contributor," which apparently means he won't be on every week . . .

By-the-by, the first weekend of the NBA playoffs on CBS had some good news and some bad news. The Saturday game did a 4.0 Nielsen rating and a 12 share, down from a 4.9/16 for the first Saturday last year . . .

But the Sunday games, which included the Boston Celtics, scored an 8.1/23, up from a 5.6/19 a year ago . . .

There's a report in New York that "60 Minutes" Executive Producer Don Hewitt, whose primetime Sunday show earns CBS about $60 million a year, has signed a 10-year contract that will earn him a total of $25 million . . .

Graham Nash, the Nash in Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, will be on "The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour" tonight talking about drug problems the group encountered over the years . . .

NBC will air the Daytime Emmy awards the afternoon of July 17. Nominations for the soap opera, game show, etc. awards will be announced May 8 . . .

Roger Sharp, the business reporter for WCBS in New York, has died of lung cancer . . .

Mr. Sharp, who had been with WABC for years as political editor and correspondent, moved to WCBS in January of last year. A month later, the cancer was diagnosed . . .

Last month, Mr. Sharp appeared on "CBS Morning News" to discuss his illness in an interview with Maria Shriver . . .

He is survived by his wife Gun and three children . . .

The news from Libya drove the early morning network ratings up last week, with NBC's "Today" getting a 6.5 Nielsen count and a 26 percent audience share . . .

ABC's "Good Morning America" had a 5.7/23 and "CBS Morning News" rose to a 3.5/14 for the week ending April 18 . . .

The "Today" rating was that show's highest since the week ending Jan. 23, 1981 . . . while CBS scored its highest rating since the week ending April 5, 1985 . . .

Audiences for all three shows were up by 1.5 million TV homes over the previous week . . .

The Libya story also boosted ABC's "Nightline" to a late-night win last week, with an 8.5/24, compared with a 7.5/22 for "The Tonight Show" and a 5.1/15 for the CBS lineup . . .

Donald R. Lockett has been named director of operations and engineering for Channel 32, the Howard University public television station . . .

He had been serving as acting director, replacing Jim Watkins, who moved to WHUR radio some time ago . . .