Some tough competition for "Entertainment Tonight" and any other syndicated "reality-based" programs under consideration should be coming out of the USA Today building across the Potomac in Rosslyn probably by September 1988 ...

A nightly TV program based on the nationwide newspaper, USA Today, was announced yesterday by Allen H. Neuharth, chairman of Gannett Co. Inc., and Grant Tinker, head of GTG Entertainment, a Tinker/Gannett company ...

The still-untitled weeknight half hour show -- with a weekend edition -- will probably be modeled on the newspaper's four sections -- News, Money, Sports and Life -- in a format frankly borrowed from the successful "Entertainment Tonight" ...

Steve Friedman, former executive producer of the "Today" show, will develop the program as head of the newly-created GTG East, a division that Friedman said would eventually develop other "reality-based" programming ...

Friedman said a control room and a studio will be built at the newspaper headquarters, which "we hope will catch the behind-the-scenes excitement of publishing. We want that publishing look. We want to make prime time access time (7 to 8 p.m.) a very live time" ...

He said "we'll be previewing the next day's news every night." ...

Friedman said the program will have two anchors. "People watch people," said the man who put "Today" back in first place in the network morning race. "The anchors could be two males, or two females or male and female" ...

GTG expects to feed the broadcasts twice daily via satellite from the Rosslyn headquarters, once at 6 p.m. Eastern time for most of the country and again at 9 p.m. for West Coast stations. This could give the new program a competitive edge: "Entertainment Tonight," operating out of the West Coast, must feed its daily broadcasts several hours earlier to make early evening East Coast schedules ...

In addition, the GTG production will offer subscribing stations a local break in each broadcast for their own use ...

Tinker stressed that the program will "not be a hard news show. Nobody needs another news program, especially in prime time access after local and network news programs have aired" ...

Asked if the planned program was to be anything more than one long ad for the successful Gannett publication, Tinker said "if we do our jobs right, the show would certainly enhance USA Today, the newspaper. The two would be complementary" ...

Although it's obvious GTG Entertainment is pointing to a September 1988 start date, Tinker cautioned that "we'd be dumb and a little arrogant to set a definite date right now" ...

"Steve has a lot of homework to do between now and then. And a lot of tough decisions to make. What will evolve will be up to Steve, but it strikes us as appropriate to do the show the way the paper works" ...

Tinker hinted that GTG -- and a syndicator still to be chosen -- hoped to have several major broadcast groups lined up as buyers of the program before GTG takes the proposal to the annual programming executives convention next winter where most program purchases for the coming fall are made, adding: "But we'd be crazy to announce that now" ...

Also in the News What seemed to be an explainable glitch (Dan was off the broadcast, the NBA primetime games cut the West Coast audiences) is starting to look like a habit for "CBS Evening News With Dan Rather" ...

Despite Rather's return to the broadcast last week, "CBS Evening News" finished in third and last place in the weekly network news race for the fourth week in a row, the first time this has happened since records on network news have been kept ...

For the week ending June 19, "NBC Nightly News With Tom Brokaw" was first with a 10.1 Nielsen average and a 22 percent audience share. "ABC World News Tonight With Peter Jennings" was second at 9.0/20, while CBS registered an 8.7/19 ...

This switch in viewing patterns also allowed ABC to finish ahead of CBS in the news race for four weeks in a row for the first time ever ...

CBS News president Howard Stringer has been on vacation the past two weeks. When he returns Monday he's going to find a lot of phone messages and rumors that "Evening News" executive producer Tom Bettag is feeling nervous ...

Those meanies at NBC researchers yesterday contented themselves with a review of some November 1986 figures ...

Back then, when "NBC Nightly News" began its run for the top, a breakdown of network affiliate performances leading into the network news programs each night showed all CBS-affiliated stations handed on to the network newscast a 26 percent share of the audience, while NBC stations handed on only a 22 share to network news and ABC stations only a 20 share ...

Since then NBC Nightly News has won some 19 of the last 25 weeks, including the last ten weeks in a row, leading one NBC executive to suggest yesterday: "What's happening to CBS and Dan Rather has been in the works for a long time" ...

Loyal TV Column fans know how unseemly C. Airwaves considers the rush by local stations to suddenly schedule movies featuring some recently-deceased star, usually before he or she has been decently buried (or, more recently, before the autopsy reports are all in) ...

But in the case of Mr. Fred Astaire, the memories are so warm, Airwaves is pleased to announce that he and other viewers will get to see Fred again as soon as this weekend, doing what only Fred Astaire did best ...

Channel 20 will hold a "tribute" to Fred on Saturday, starting at noon with "The Gay Divorcee" featuring Fred and Ginger Rogers; "Follow the Fleet," with Fred and Ginger again at 2 p.m.; and "Swingtime" at 4 p.m.

Channel 5 will air its "tribute" to Fred on Sunday, starting at noon with "Let's Dance," followed at 2 with "Funny Face" and at 4 p.m. with "Silk Stockings" ...

Channel 26, which is even slow being unseemly, yesterday announced that an Ernie Kovacs special scheduled for the fund-raising night of Aug. 22 has now been pulled in favor of two films featuring Astaire -- Jack Haley Jr.'s "That's Dancing!" and the 1941 Astaire film "Second Chorus" ...

The esteem and affection in which Mr. Astaire was held was reflected late Monday night by the audiences for a couple of network specials marking his death at the age of 88 ...

"Fred Astaire: An American Classic," a CBS special anchored by Rather and featuring a lovely tribute from Charles Kuralt, averaged a 7.0 Nielsen rating and an 18 percent audience share in the 14 major Nielsen markets. An ABC News "Nightline" special devoted to memories of Astaire drew an 8.5/23 ...

"The Tonight Show" on NBC did an 8.5/22 during the same 11:30 to midnight time slot ...

1 21.5 Family Ties 40 NBC 2 20.3 The Cosby Show 39 NBC 3 18.4 Cheers 35 NBC 4 18.2 20/20 32 ABC 5 17.7 The Golden Girls 36 NBC 6 17.3 Growing Pains 32 ABC 7 16.8 Murder, She Wrote 32 CBS 8 15.8 Crime of Innocence 28 NBC 15.8 Picking Up the Pieces 27 CBS 10 15.6 Who's the Boss? 30 ABC 11 15.3 Miami Vice 30 NBC 15.3 This Child Is Mine 27 NBC 13 15.1 Molly Dodd 27 NBC 14 14.9 Hunter 31 NBC 14.9 Moonlighting 26 ABC 16 14.6 Matlock 27 NBC 17 14.5 60 Minutes 31 CBS 14.5 Night Court 26 NBC 19 14.3 Newhart 24 CBS 20 14.1 Valerie 25 NBC

NBC had another easy time of it last week, taking first with a 13.5 Nielsen rating and a 26 percent audience share. CBS was second at 10.1/19, while ABC was third at 9.9/19 (in spite of a good showing by "20/20" which featured an interview with Donna Rice) ...

Among highlights for the week ending June 21, CBS' "Twenty Years on the Road With Charles Kuralt" tied for 31st ...

The overrun of the U.S. Open golf championship on ABC Sunday was 46th, while CBS' "Kung Fu: The Next Generation" tied for 49th with ABC's Monday night baseball game ...

ABC's Father's Day special, "Our Kids and the Best of Everything," was 61st; CBS' "West 57th" was 64th and ABC's "Gung Ho" was 68th and last in the rankings ...