This is the week of the great NBC News trek to the Middle Kingdom, where a crew of 120 News division staffers -- many of them already on site -- is being assembled for a landmark nine days of live broadcasts from the People's Republic of China that starts Friday ...

Anchors Bryant Gumbel and Tom Brokaw are flying today to Beijing, "Today" co-anchor Jane Pauley leaves tomorrow ...

NBC News is spending some $6 million on the coverage, which begins at the end of the week with both "Today" and "NBC Nightly News" broadcasting from Beijing ...

Friday Brokaw will also interview Premier Zhao Ziyang. Highlights of that interview will air that evening on "Nightly News" while the entire interview will be seen Sunday morning on "Meet the Press," after which Brokaw and anchor Chris Wallace, in Washington, will "cross-talk" ...

NBC News yesterday also announced an added starter from Beijing, should the NFL players strike be underway. If so, Sunday at 6:30, Brokaw in China will join Garrick Utley in New York for a half hour in the "Nightly News" slot that would otherwise be preempted by football ...

In other scheduled events, "Sunday Today" co-anchor Boyd Matson will broadcast from Shanghai on Sunday ...

"Today" and "NBC Nightly News" then move to Shanghai for their Thursday and Friday telecasts before heading back home ...

Also in the News

The four-hour Emmy telecast on the fledgling Fox network Sunday night did mighty poor, at least in Nielsen's 15 major markets ...

The marathon averaged a 10.2 rating and a 17 percent audience share between 8 p.m. and midnight. National ratings will be out today ...

That compares with a 14-city overnight rating a year ago of 22.6/36 when the TV industry's annual salute to the TV industry aired on NBC ...

Sunday night's telecast aired on 161 stations, including 115 Fox affiliates. The full NBC turnout last year was 203 outlets ...

Locally, the Emmys scored a 13.9/24 on Fox-owned Channel 5 ...

In case you didn't hear, NBC led the Emmy winners Sunday with 16 awards in 31 categories. CBS was second with 11, while ABC had four. A total of 70 Emmys, including the technical awards announced last week, were distributed this year. NBC had 32 of those, CBS 15, ABC 19, PBS eight and syndicated programs, one ...

A spokesman for Fox Broadcasting yesterday put the best possible face on what seems to have been the ratings disaster the three big networks, outbid by Fox for rights to the show over three years, had predicted ...

Fox's Jeff Mackler said, "The major thing about the broadcast was that we've really greatly enhanced viewer awareness of Fox. That's a major plus" ...

In Other Ratingzzz News

ABC News got a pleasant surprise Friday night when "20/20" led the national Nielsen ratings in the 10 p.m. time slot with a 13.7/27 (each rating point represents 886,000 TV homes) ...

The "20/20" crew had yelped when ABC Entertainment president Brandon Stoddard, over News division objections, moved the show from Thursday, where its audience was established, to the Friday time slot, part of a complicated strategy to make room for "Dolly" on Sunday night on the ABC schedule ...

In that same hour Friday night, the second half of the National Lampoon movie on CBS earned an 11.8/23, while the premiere of NBC's "Private Eye" in its regular time slot was third at 11.4/22 ...

On Saturday night, reverting again to Nielsen overnight figures in 15 major cities, the Miss America Pageant on NBC averaged a 19.7/38 from 10 to midnight. "Mama's Boy," benefiting from the big audience for "The Golden Girls'" season return (22.0/38), had a 19.5/34. "Mama's Boy" is one of those "designated hitter" series NBC will trot out once a month until, if audiences buy it, a spot in the regular lineup opens later in the year ...

ABC, incidentally, recorded only a 5.1/19 for a 90-minute movie aptly named "Desperate" Saturday night against Miss America ...

It was probably a coincidence, but only yesterday ABC announced a deal with Radio Television Italian (RAI) to acquire domestic TV rights to three motion pictures from RAI for broadcast in the United States, simultaneous with the theatrical release of the films abroad ...

Ted Harbert, vice president, motion pictures, ABC Entertainment, said the agreement allows ABC to acquire multimillion-dollar motion pictures (with production budgets as high as $10 million and $12 million) for prices comparatively advantageous to the average license fee paid for motion pictures for television (from $2 million to $3 million, at a guess) ...

Oh, and one more Ratingzzz Note:...

NBC News debuted "Sunday Today" early Sunday morning. The 90-minute program with Maria Shriver and Boyd Matson as anchors scored a 2.6 Nielsen rating and a 13 percent audience share in 14 major markets (the NBC affiliate in Hartford, Conn., isn't buying yet). A total of 124 NBC affiliates, covering about 85 percent of the U.S. TV audiences, cleared "Sunday Today" for its premiere broadcast. A 125th is probably going to join the crowd this week, according to NBC ...

One NBC News executive, still overwrought after waving goodbye to confreres headed for the Forbidden City, snapped out of it long enough yesterday to admit the division was pleasantly surprised by the modest "Sunday Today" numbers: Advertisers had been promised only a 2.0 rating ...

Now This

Cable News Network announced yesterday it will air live coverage of eight League of Women Voters presidential debates, four each for Republican and Democratic candidates ...

League debates are scheduled for Feb. 13 and 14 in Manchester, N.H., and March 5-6 in Nashville, Tenn. The other two sites will be announced later this fall ...

CNN has already announced plans for live coverage of Democratic and Republican debates sponsored by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Feb. 27-28 ...

CNN also launches "Inside Politics '88," a weekday half-hour political news program on Nov. 2 in the 6 p.m. time slot that will run through the whole presidential campaign year ...

The cable network said yesterday its election unit has also established a full-time bureau in Des Moines, Iowa, that will be in business through the state caucuses, Feb. 8 ...

A Veritable Potpourri

Jazz vocalist Bobby McFerrin has recorded the theme song of NBC's "The Cosby Show" for this season ...

The first two years of the number one series featured sax player Grover Washington Jr., while jazz flutist David Valentine handled the theme last season. The show premieres for its fourth season Thursday ...

And here's some good news from Lawrence, Kan., where the University of Kansas Division of Communication and Theatre announces that "Miami Vice's" Don Johnson has been named the first recipient of "the Buddy Award," named in honor of Olathe, Kan., native Charles "Buddy" Rogers, the long-time screen star ...

Johnson, a theater student at KU for two years in the late 1960s, will get his "Buddy" award Oct. 24 ...

Richard Chamberlain and Lesley-Anne Down will star in "The Bourne Identity," a four-hour ABC miniseries adapted from the Robert Ludlum novel that will air next spring ...

Walt Whitman high school graduate Rogan Labier has a role in the ABC Afterschool Special which airs Friday after school on Channel 7 at 4 p.m. ...

"The Kid Who Wouldn't Quit: The Brad Silverman Story" is based on the experiences of a young man who despite Down's syndrome is determined to attend college. Labier plays the captain of a high school football team who befriends him ...

Labier, 19, is also slated to star as the psychopath in an upcoming theatrical movie called "A Friend in Greed" ...