One hundred fifty of the 160 stations that make up the Association of Independent Television Stations have agreed to air the controversial W. R. Grace & Co. ad, "Deficit Trials: 2017 A.D.," which the three networks have refused to run. . .

The ad will run on the 150 stations -- including channels 20 and 50 in this market -- at 7:57 the night of Thursday, Aug. 21, it was announced yesterday in New York . . .

The stations will air the ad for free. An ITV spokesman said yesterday that placement of the ads by Grace would have cost about $250,000 . . .

Preston R. Padden, president of the association, said the one-minute commercial "was a well-produced and creative spot, which deserves to be seen by the American people" . . .

On April 30 this year, W.R. Grace & Co. announced it had hired former secretary of health, education and welfare Joseph A. Califano Jr. to press ABC, CBS and NBC to accept advertising linked to major public issues, including "Deficit Trials: 2017 A.D." . . .

NBC and CBS have refused to air the ad. ABC said it would air it only after midnight . . .

The ad, which cost $300,000 to produce, features a gray and dingy 2017 courtroom, where children dressed in rags have brought the present generation to trial for spiraling, unchecked deficits . . .

The ad -- only one of several W.R. Grace has produced on issues -- has been seen on local commercial stations, including several in Washington . . .

ITV represents 160 of the estimated 230 independent TV stations in the country . . .

Tom Bettag, executive producer of "CBS Evening News With Dan Rather," tells us that the return of Bill Moyers to a regular role as a commentator on the show was part of a CBS News "effort to make the program more provocative and thoughtful . . .

"Dan and I asked Bill to please come back to the program and he agreed, once he had completed work on his documentary about Atlantic City" . . . which airs next Wednesday night on the network . . .

He said Moyers, who began work on "Evening News" Monday night, will appear two or three times a week but that "it's up to him" . . .

The Moyers return is part of a "fine-tuning" that is being conducted all this summer to get the program set for the fall . . .

"You may not notice it right off," said Bettag, "but the writing is tighter and crisper and we're covering more stories, as aggressively as we can. We want to let Dan be as straightforward and no-nonsense as only he can be" . . .

The sometimes "cute" bumpers announcing upcoming stories are being abandoned, Bettag said . . .

He also said the addition of Lesley Stahl in the new job of national affairs correspondent was part of a strategy to assemble "the best group of correspondents, aggressively seeking out stories" . . .

"We want Lesley to range through all of Washington and find out what's really going on" . . .

He said the new $11 million "CBS Evening News" set will probably be "gradually introduced" to viewers over a period of weeks, starting in about two weeks. "You may not notice it at first," said Bettag . . .

So Saying "CBS Evening News With Dan Rather" won another tight race last week, edging "NBC Nightly News With Tom Brokaw" by two-tenths of a Nielsen point (or about a margin of 170,000 TV homes nightly) . . .

CBS had a 10.3 Nielsen average and a 22 percent audience share for the week ending Aug. 1, compared to a 10.1/22 for NBC and a 9.2/20 for "ABC World News Tonight With Peter Jennings" . . .

It was only the third clear-cut win for once-dominant CBS in the last seven weeks . . .

The Federal Communications Commission today will announce new "must carry" rules for the cable TV industry . . .

Watching anxiously will be public broadcasting stations, many of which fear losing access to small, 13-channel or less local cable systems. Others, where two or more public TV stations operate, fear that the rules could allow cable systems to carry only one in a particular market . . .

Also worried are those commercial stations, particularly UHF, with low audience shares, which cable systems might not be required to carry (one compromise expected: new UHF stations would get a year's grace period before marketplace considerations are put in play) . . .

Andy Rooney, who likes to play Grumpy on CBS' "60 Minutes" in his role as resident commentator, also writes a syndicated newspaper column three times a week that goes to more than 300 papers . . .

While he was on vacation last week, Rooney wrote a column in which he bemoaned the loss of "CBS Morning News" and at one point said, "CBS, which used to stand for the Columbia Broadcasting System, no longer stands for anything. They're just corporate initials now" . . .

In the column, he pointed out that the morning program -- which will be canceled in December -- gave many correspondents an opportunity to air news stories that might otherwise not have made it on the air. Referring to the recent firings at CBS, he also suggested that "if it was money the company wanted to save, firing a couple of $150,000-a-year vice presidents could have saved more than firing a lot of $50,000-a-year people" . . .

Copies of the column, which is not published in New York, began circulating at CBS News on Tuesday . . .

Yesterday, back at work, Rooney said that so far, he hasn't "heard from anybody in authority" about the column "but I doubt if I've heard the last of it" . . .

Don Hewitt, executive producer of "60 Minutes," said yesterday that "what he writes is none of my business. I wasn't aware that the First Amendment has been repealed while I was out of town. Here's a guy who casts a critical eye on everything and everybody and who decides to cast it a little closer to home, that's all" . . .

Said Rooney: "The people I talked to, they kind of liked it. I may have ended up doing a favor to the executives; I think it let off steam for a lot of people. It went around here like wildfire . . .

"I like CBS and I find it sad what's been happening. It may sound corny, but I think TV news -- and I'm talking about all three networks -- has been a force for good in this country. How they've maintained the standards they did is incredible" . . .

Said Hewitt: "Andy will be working here this year" . . .

(In yesterday's early editions, Captain Airwaves, who likes to play Grumpy for The TV Column, managed to assign Charlie Rose to anchor the "CBS Evening News" for two weeks at the end of August. Fortunately, someone (I think it was Happy) caught the error and dispatched the "Nightwatch" host to anchor "CBS Morning News" for two weeks at the end of August, which is what CBS News had in mind in the first place) . . .

Honestly, Grump . . . er, Airwaves . . .

Betty White, Jay Leno and Billy Crystal will take turns during the week of Sept. 8 serving as guest hosts of "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson" . . .

White will appear Sept. 8, Leno will be on the next two nights and Crystal the last two . . .

1 22.4 The Cosby Show 45 NBC 2 21.5 Family Ties 41 NBC 3 21.0 Night Court 38 NBC 4 20.5 Cheers 37 NBC 5 18.6 Newhart 32 CBS 6 17.3 Murder, She Wrote 33 CBS 17.3 Kate & Allie 30 CBS 8 16.9 Growing Pains 31 ABC 9 16.8 60 Minutes 36 CBS 10 16.6 Who's the Boss? 31 ABC 11 16.3 The Golden Girls 33 NBC 12 15.3 Sylvan in Paradise 31 NBC 13 15.1 Cagney & Lacey 28 CBS 14 14.8 Memories Never Die 27 CBS 15 14.6 Scarecrow & Mrs. King 27 CBS 16 14.3 Miami Vice 29 NBC 17 13.9 20/20 26 ABC 18 13.7 Moonlighting 24 ABC 19 13.6 You Again? 23 NBC 20 13.5 Remington Steele 28 NBC

Summertime and the winning is easy for NBC, which took the week ending Aug. 3 with a 12.2 Nielsen count and 23 percent of the national audience . . .

CBS was second with a 10.9/21 while ABC trailed with a 9.5/18. Each Nielsen point represents 859,000 TV homes . . .

"Sylvan in Paradise," a sitcom pilot starring Jim Nabors, did well Saturday night, thanks to the NBC lead-in audience from "The Golden Girls" . . .

Noted at the lemonade stand outside the Primetime Pantheon last week despite the fact that Statuary Hall is closed during the month of August were ABC's "Absence of Malice," which finished in 23rd place; NBC's "I'm Dancing as Fast as I Can" in 30th; and NBC's "1986," which was 37th for the week . . .

ABC's "Confessions of a Married Man" tied with Part II of CBS' "Mistral's Daughter" for 38th . . .

Part I and Part III of the CBS mini-series finished in a tie for 44th and 46th, respectively . . .

The ABC News Closeup "After the Sexual Revolution" also tied for 44th . . .

The Final and in This Weather Probably Fatal Five Plus One last week included, in order, CBS' "Melba," in 56th, followed by ABC's "Ripley's Believe It or Not"; "The City," an ABC drama pilot; the CBS sitcom pilot "The Family Martinez"; ABC's "The Colbys"; and CBS' repeat of "The Hunchback of Notre Dame," for whom the bells tolled a 61st and last-place finish . . .