The National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians (NABET) and NBC, locked in a strike since June 29, will return to the bargaining table here tomorrow ...

Negotiators were called together by Kay McMurray, the director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. It will be the first meeting since Sept. 1, when talks broke off in disagreement over proposed language governing use of non-union personnel to cover sports and news events ...

Some 2,800 NABET employes, including cameramen, writers and other key technicians, have been out at the network since union leadership rejected the company's final offer to replace a pact that expired March 31 ...

Management sources have hinted recently of some back-door manuevering to get the strike settled. CBS faces a contract deadline with its key technical union, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), at the end of this month. That network, under considerably more financial pressure than number one NBC, is taking a much tougher negotiation stand, including insistence on unlimited temporary hires. Should CBS prevail and force a less generous contract on its technicians than NABET has been offered, the pressure on NABET to settle could increase, according to the thinking at NBC ...

NABET leadership, meanwhile, last week asked other major unions with NBC contracts to demonstrate "union solidarity" by honoring picket lines starting Oct. 1 ...

Among the "scores of unions" contacted: the International Brotherhood of Teamsters; the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA); the American Federation of Musicians; IBEW; the International Alliance of Theatrical, Stage Employees and Moving Picture Operators; as well as the guilds representing screen actors, directors and writers ...

And how is Geraldo Rivera's "Geraldo" talk show on Channel 7 doing, so far? ...

Positioned, advantageously, to follow ABC News' "Nightline" in the late-night schedule (although subject, for the same reason, to even later starts, especially on Monday football nights), "Geraldo" has done fairly well in its first nine appearances on WJLA ...

Through last Thursday, "Geraldo" has averaged a 2.5 Nielsen rating and a 13 percent audience share. Take away an atrocious 0.9/7 start on Sept. 7, and a low-low 1.3/7 this past Thursday, when Joan Collins' divorce lawyer showed up, "Geraldo" has averaged a 3.0/15 ...

"Nightline," on the other hand, has averaged a 4.8/17 as a lead-in to "Geraldo" on WJLA, and that included an odd 1.9/9 on Sept. 7 (each local rating point represents about 15,800 TV households in this market) ...

Also in the News

ABC on Friday finally signed with A.C. Nielsen Co. for the ratings service's controversial "people meters" ...

NBC and CBS had earlier signed for the new methodology but ABC seems to have hammered out a tougher deal with Nielsen, in part because ABC sees measurement of its younger, urban audience more at risk than the other two under the "people meters" ...

ABC signed for three years, with an option for two more, at a cost of nearly $5 million annually. But ABC also paid $500,000 extra to get a guarantee from Nielsen to meet some tough requirements. If Nielsen fails to do so, ABC can bail out of the contract after a year ...

Nielsen has agreed, in part, to guarantees on total households, total persons, men and women 18 to 49; and children 2 to 11, in its 2,000-household people meter sample ...

Marvin Mord, vice president for marketing and research for the ABC Network, said Friday that ABC is "concerned" about the difference between the installed sample in the 2,000 homes and daily results, based on a different distribution ...

"We want to be sure that the sample is back in balance," Mord said. "If the sample relies on more urban households, with younger persons, with larger families, they tend to move more often. If they purchase a VCR, or a move is made, those sets go out. You can have as many as 400 households out, so the sample can drop to 75 or 80 percent" ...

Mord said "Nielsen has guaranteed that 'in-tab' sample at 85 percent for households, 80 percent for people. We base the sample on normal statistical figures based on the census" ...

Mord said neither CBS nor NBC has those guarantees "but we may have more to lose because of a younger audience." He said the other two networks can get the same deal if they'll pony up the extra $500,000 ...

With people meters operating full time this past week, Mord said, "what we've seen so far has been kind of encouraging for ABC. We're seeing better numbers for some of the lower rated shows already" ...

Mord could have been talking about "Sledge Hammer!" and "The Charmings," which returned Thursday for a new season on ABC, this time in the Thursday 8-to-9 slot filled last year by "Our World" ...

Between them, the two sitcoms averaged an 8.9/15, or 7.8 million households. A year ago, "Our World" averaged 5.6 million homes weekly in that hour. Next week, everybody gets to meet Bill Cosby at 8 p.m. on NBC. It won't be so charming, then, Sledge! ...

One program that didn't rattle the people meters Thursday night was the two-hour "We the People 200" gala on CBS, marking the 200th birthday of the Constitution ...

CBS called on Walter Cronkite, Gregory Peck and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, to say nothing of show biz heavyweights like Wayne Rogers and Lloyd Bridges ... but the program drew a scant 7.6 national Nielsen rating and a 13 percent audience share. That's about 6.7 million TV homes (each rating point represents 886,000 homes) ...

A Bob Hope special on NBC that night didn't help the CBS Gala much, either, running to 9:30 with a 19.4/32 over the last half hour (and a 20.3/34 overall). That's 17.1 million TV homes. And then "Night Court" returned for its fifth season on NBC at 9:30 and averaged an 18.5/31 (16.4 million TV homes) ...

Also on ABC that night, a rerun of Teri Garr in "Mr. Mom" averaged a 13.3/23 (11.7 million) against the Gala ...

And locally, "Out of This World" joined the WRC Thursday at 7:30 p.m. lineup with a 9.8/18 (each rating point representing 15,800 homes) ...

Now This

Newsweek reports today that Bill Leonard, who as then-president of CBS News was "most responsible for granting Dan Rather dual authority of anchorman and managing editor of 'CBS Evening News' " during 1980 contract negotiations, has told the magazine he's "regretted" the decision "ever since" ...

Rather exercised such control Sept. 11 when he ruled that CBS Sports would have to fill in a half hour set for the first feed of the "Evening News" when a U.S. Open tennis match ran over the 6:30 p.m. start time of his newscast. When communication broke down between New York and Miami, where the "Evening News" originated that night, CBS "went to black" for an unprecedented six minutes before Rather returned to the anchor chair and got the newscast underway ...

Leonard told the magazine "an anchor's ego prevents him from seeing what's good for the overall news organization. It's not healthy for him to be the final decision maker." Leonard recalls, "I simply gave in to him" ...

Although the complete story of what happened the night of Sept. 11 hasn't surfaced, insiders say executive producer Tom Bettag had to go along, however reluctantly, with Rather's original decision to leave the programming to CBS Sports for the 6:30 broadcast, leading to the six-minute fiasco ...

ABC News "Nightline" plans a special one-hour broadcast Wednesday night when Ted Koppel interviews Ali Khamenei, the president of Iran ...

Khamenei will be in New York for an address tomorrow before the United Nations. Koppel will probably tape the interview -- which will deal with hostages, the Persian Gulf and the war with Iraq -- sometime during the day on Wednesday, but details weren't firm Friday ...

Fred Rogers, whose Neighborhood has been a staple on PBS since the network started 20 years ago, is in Moscow through Thursday, where he's taping segments for his show with a Soviet counterpart, Tatiana Vedeneeva, who hosts "Good Night, Little Ones" on Soviet TV ...

Fred appears on her show this week. And in mid-November, Tatiana comes to Pittsburgh to tape some "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" shows with him for a week ...

"Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" returns to PBS for a new season (a mix of new and old programs) during Thanksgiving week. The Moscow segments as well as Tatiana's visit to the United States will air the week of March 7 in the United States ...