Joe Fowler, the Channel 5 sportscaster whose headlong style has been drawing very mixed reviews ever since he debuted last August, will leave the station Aug. 2 ...

In announcing the not unexpected move Friday, Joe Saitta, WTTG news vice president, admitted, "Joe just didn't work in this market. Viewers watch Five for very serious, hard-news content; they don't watch it for 'personalities' and he has a 'personality' delivery" ...

Betty Endicott, vice president and general manager of the station, said that "Joe's a knowledgeable sports person, he just didn't click" ...

Fowler, who is on vacation this week, returns to the air next Monday through the end of the month ...

Saitta said, "It's a good parting. There's other things Joe wants to do, something more creative, maybe in the movies." Fowler had a small speaking part in the Sylvester Stallone film "Cobra," which also got very mixed reviews ...

Station management had discussed the possibility of Fowler's remaining on the staff so he could return to the "Redskins Playbook" show and other sports features this fall, but nothing solid could be worked out in the talks that ended Friday ...

Fowler came to Five a year ago from KMOX in St. Louis, where he had been a free-lancer. Loud, brash and not too good on the interviews, he made a quick impression on viewers last August -- one of those sportscasters, in the manner of Howard Cosell or Dick Vitale, viewers either immediately liked or heartily disliked...

Unfortunately, for Fowler, the latter prevailed in local viewer surveys, although it was noticeable after a couple of months that he had toned down his style and had seemed to be finding his niche in a market that can handle only one George Michael at a time. (A rival station reported that its viewer surveys found Fowler often being compared to Joe Theismann) ...

In recent days, Five chose not to exercise its option to renew his one-year contract. While searching for a less-flamboyant replacement, Five will go with weekend sportscaster Steve Buckhantz, who can be considered a candidate for the weeknight spot himself ...

Endicott said Friday that the station definitely will have a "Redskins Playbook" series again this fall for the 8 p.m. Monday slot ...

We hear that ABC News is talking to Ned Potter, one of the 14 CBS correspondents released March 6 as part of a $30 million budget-cutting move. Potter was based in Boston for CBS at the time ...

ABC News is also talking to Kathleen Sullivan, whose contract recently ran out. The host of "The Health Show" and the Saturday night network news anchor will also be sitting in for Joan Lunden on "Good Morning America" when the latter goes on maternity leave later this month ...

The network doesn't expect any trouble signing her up again ...

Labor Notes

In case you missed the announcement over the weekend, the Directors Guild of America Saturday called for a selective strike to begin tomorrow morning against NBC and two top Hollywood studios, Warner Bros. and Columbia Pictures. But the two sides agreed to meet this morning in a last-ditch effort to resolve their differences ...

"We are not optimistic," Directors Guild of America spokesman Chuck Warn said last night.

Late yesterday, in support of NBC, CBS announced that if the strike proceeds against NBC Tuesday, it will "regretfully" ask its 150 DGA members not to report to work. The three networks bargain as a unit with DGA. No word from ABC on what it plans to do at this writing ...

The strike, which could eventually spread to other studios and the other networks, crippling production and forcing a lot of TV reruns, was announced after the 8,420-member DGA's national board had rejected the final offer from the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers for a new three-year contract ...

The first effects of the directors strike could be seen tomorrow night when NBC televises the annual All-Star major league baseball game from Oakland ...

NBC already is contending with a strike by 2,800 members of the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians. Between the DGA and NABET actions, the game will be televised without the professional help of NABET cameramen and sound technicians or of DGA directors ...

The DGA contract with the studios and networks expired at midnight June 30. DGA members voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike, but talks continued until late Friday ...

A major issue in the negotiations is a demand by producers that directors give up residual payments on films shown on "pay-as-you-view" TV stations and surrender some payments tied to TV reruns. The guild wants to increase its current payments from 1.2 percent of the revenue from pay TV to 2 percent ...

NBC -- obviously chosen as the number one rated (and revenue-producing) network as well as the target already of NABET -- has many TV shows ready for the fall. But hits like "Cheers," "Family Ties" and "The Golden Girls" reportedly have nothing prepared to go on the air in September ...

NBC daytime soap operas could also suffer if the strike continues ...

Meanwhile, a federal mediator has called on NBC and NABET to resume their talks, starting next Monday in New York ...

The NABET-NBC contract expired at the end of March, when the network made a final offer, which the union negotiators refused ... There have been no talks since June 16. The strike began June 29 ...

Parenthetically, there will be a rally in support of striking NABET members at NBC-owned WRC tonight starting at 7. The 300 members of NABET Local 31 will be joined by supporters from the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists ...

Moving Right Along

CBS yesterday announced that when Iran-contra hearings renew today, the network will air "two popular soap operas between 12:30 p.m. and 2 p.m.," during the hearings' noontime break ...

Last week, CBS hearings ratings ran third in the big cities, and there was some speculation that number one ABC had a jump on everybody by going with soaps during the lunch break. CBS chose to go with two game shows ...

Starting today, CBS will air "The Young and the Restless" and "The Bold and the Beautiful," scrapping "The Price Is Right" and "$25,000 Pyramid" ...

Meanwhile, overnight Nielsen figures in the top 15 markets for the first three days of the hearings last week showed NBC audiences were up 15 percent, CBS viewership up 3 percent and ABC down 8 percent, based on a comparison with the most recent four-week averages for the time periods between 9 a.m. and 12 p.m. and 2 and 5 p.m. ...

Overnights available Friday for Thursday's hearings, meanwhile, reflected the same pattern -- ABC tops in the big 15 markets, followed by NBC and then CBS ...

Locally, Channel 56 will begin carrying the hearings this morning (see program listings for details) ...

And Finally

WGBH in Boston, the top public broadcasting station in the Northeast, has announced that for its August fund-raising campaign the pledge breaks will be closed-captioned for the hearing-impaired ...

This mixed blessing comes from Honeywell-Bull, which helps underwrite such PBS staples as "Masterpiece Theatre" and "NOVA" for WGBH, and has a lot of hearing-impaired employes at its Boston-area plant ...

The fund raising will be held the nights of Aug. 1, Aug. 8 and Aug. 15 through 31 ...

On the night of Aug. 25, Honeywell-Bull will also provide special devices on the WGBH fund-raising set to demonstrate how the hearing-impaired communicate over the telephone ...