Tom Murphy, chairman of Capital Cities/ABC Inc. yesterday told representatives of the ABC affiliate stations, meeting in Los Angeles, that the company will lose money this year . . .

He said rumors that ABC would be sold were "nonsense" and assured the affiliates that ABC "is not in the business of being number three" . . .

Dan Burke, president and chief executive officer of Cap Cities/ABC Inc., said that in the five months since the merger of the two companies, "one-third of the paperwork has been eliminated" and that with all the announced budget cuts in that time "not a dime has been cut from programming" . . .

He pointed out that the 30-hour "War and Remembrance" sequel to "The Winds of War," due to air on ABC in 1988, will cost $100 million and that on taking over, ABC chairman Murphy "unhesitatingly committed" the network to stick with the project (affiliates aren't that much into paperwork reductions but love talk about $100 million mini-series) . . .

The affiliates also heard that ABC Sports will have college basketball starting Jan. 18, with 10 national telecasts on eight dates, winding up March 8 . . .

Among the games: Navy vs. Kentucky on Jan. 25 . . .

Other schools on the schedule include LSU, Notre Dame, Nevada-Las Vegas, Kansas, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Michigan State. National champion Louisville and Purdue will open the ABC schedule on January 18 . . .

Also on the hoop schedule: the Southeast and Pac Ten conference championships and, regionally, the Big Eight . . .

During yesterday's proceedings, "The Colbys' star Charlton Heston introduced ABC News President Roone Arledge to the affiliates . . .

Then Arledge introduced Peter Jennings, Barbara Walters, Ted Koppel and David Brinkley who, in turn, introduced the affiliates to Global Communications, 1986 -- as Walters talked live via satellite with Soviet dissident Anatoly Shcharansky in Jerusalem; Koppel introduced Bishop Tutu live from Johannesburg; Brinkley talked to Chrysler Chairman Lee Iacocca in Detroit; and Jennings talked to Tip O'Neill in Washington . . .

ABC also finally revealed its 1987 fall promotion theme. It's "Together." Last year it was "You'll Love It!" . . .

Front-running NBC has already chosen "Come Home to NBC," a considerable improvement over last year's "Let's All Be There" . . .

CBS' theme is "Share the Spirit of CBS," which replaces "We've Got the Touch" . . .

Game 4 of the NBA championship round between Boston and Houston Tuesday night earned a 15.4 national Nielsen rating and a 26 percent audience share on CBS . . . up from last Thursday's primetime game, which had a 14.8/26 . . .

And the NBC White Paper "Divorce Is Changing America" did a 9.8/17 . . .

Party Time

They're giving a party out at Channel 7 today for Fazal Karim, manager of credit and collections at the station, who is a member of the U.S. National Cricket Team (he plays cover fieldsman and opening batsman) . . .

He's leaving for the International Cricket Conference Tournament that begins June 11 in Great Britain, where the U.S. team competes with cricketeers (or is it cricketers?) from 18 other nations. The winner goes to the World Cricket Tournament in 1987 . . .

And those fun folks at NBC are throwing a "Swing Into Summer" soiree this evening, on the lawn out at WRC, with hot dogs, hamburgers and music for network, Channel 4 and WKYS-FM employes. It's part of the NBC 60th anniversary celebrations . . .

The five-year partnership of Gannett and journalists Robert MacNeil and Jim Lehrer will end July 1, when "MacNeil-Lehrer-Gannett Productions" will become plain old "MacNeil-Lehrer Productions" . . .

Besides the weeknight "MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour" for PBS, the partnership also produced the U.S. version of the 12-part "Heart of the Dragon" series for PBS as well as documentaries on South Africa and heart disease . . .

A nine-part series on the global impact of the English language, "The Story of English," premieres on PBS this September . . .

No explanation was given for the dissolution of the Gannett connection announced yesterday . . .

Channel 20 has gone back to the drawing board regarding its fall schedule in the wake of a surprise ratings decline, particularly in its hitherto strong 5-to-8 p.m. programming . . .

One possible reason: a 20 percent increase in cable penetration in the Washington market over last year just as UHF competitors like Channels 24, 50 and 54 joined the competition . . .

And, in case you haven't noticed, today is World Environment Day. Which is why Channel 5's Maury Povich will receive (on his "Panorama" noon show) the Lorax Award from the United Nations Environmental Programme for his documentary "The Chesapeake Bay: A Heritage Worth Preserving," which aired in March . . .

ABC's "Good Morning America" has signed Joan Rivers to cover the Royal Wedding of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson. She'll report live from London July 21 through the 23rd and will also tape features . . .

Last week, Albert Halprin, head of the FCC's common carrier bureau, and the FCC's top staff member involved in national telephone policy, criticized an "NBC Nightly News" report that claimed telephone rate increases jeopardized the elderly . . .

Halprin, emphasizing he was writing to NBC "on his own" and not on behalf of the agency, said the report "was an insult to the journalism profession" and "an absolute disgrace" . . .

Yesterday, "Nightly News" Executive Producer Bill Wheatley wrote back, saying that his review of the piece "leads me to believe that the report was absolutely accurate in its basic theme: that, since the breakup of AT&T, more and more Americans, particularly the elderly, are finding it difficult to afford a telephone" . . .

Wheatley admitted that "pinpointing just how many people have had difficulty in dealing with higher phone costs remains elusive. In our report, we used estimates provided by the Consumers Federation of America and the American Association of Retired Persons, estimates those groups continue to believe are correct. Clearly you disagree with their figures, but your letter gives no indication of what you believe the real figures to be" . . .

"Let me say that we take our journalistic responsibilities very seriously and are greatly disturbed by your charges that our report was 'sensationalist.' While there may be debate as to the number of people affected, there seems to be no doubt that, for many, the cost of post-divestiture telephone service has become a hardship. This is the story we were attempt ing to tell and we are satisfied that we did so fairly" . . .

And Finally

Today's conversation stopper, from CBS News anchor Dan Rather: "Ratings don't last. Good journalism does" . . .