NBC State Department correspondent Anne Garrels has left the network to become the top foreign policy correspondentfor National Public Radio. The announcement will be made later this week ...

Garrels had worked for ABC News in several major overseas assignments, including Moscow and Central America, for 10 years before moving to NBC News three years ago ...

Her decision to leave a big-time network, and its relatively big-time pay, was no overnight decision, and apparently not that hard to make ...

At NBC she has been second to correspondent John Cochran at State. In a recent conversation Garrels said she and perhaps other female correspondents at the network "are being underutilized" ...

"I want to get back into daily journalism," she said. "NBC has 60 correspondents out there around the country fighting for maybe three spots every night (on 'NBC Nightly News With Tom Brokaw'). That's a very hard system to break into" ...

In 1982, during a two-year assignment in the Soviet Union for ABC, Garrels made some headlines of her own. She was assaulted and robbed in Kiev following a private visit to Soviet Jewish friends there. At the time she claimed the KGB was involved in the purse-snatching incident ...

Several weeks later, only an hour after Tass had distributed an English-language attack on Garrels for her charges against the KGB, she was involved in a traffic accident in Moscow that claimed the life of a pedestrian and seriously injured another. She was completely cleared of all charges related to the accident but the incidents prompted ABC News to call her back home ...

Only last week longtime NBC correspondent Norma Quarles, who had been relegated to a corporate communications job at the network, joined Cable News Network in New York . .

Channel 9 anchor Gordon Peterson said yesterday he "feels bad" about the rough interview he conducted with Republican presidential hopeful Jack Kemp on the 5 p.m. Friday newscast ...

Kemp was originally scheduled to appear during the 6 o'clock news but called from the airport to say he had to go on earlier if he was going to make it ...

During the 4 1/2-minute interview, Peterson repeatedly pressed Kemp on whether the New York congressman would withdraw from the campaign after poor recent showings and reported organizational and financial problems confronting him as the Super Tuesday primaries approach ...

At one point, Peterson recalled yesterday, Kemp asked him why he didn't focus on the issues and finally, a "little tight-lipped," said "thank you very much, it's been a real pleasure," ending the interview ...

"I kept pushing him a little," Peterson acknowledged yesterday. "I wanted to draw him out on his position as a conservative alternative to the other candidates ...

"I felt badly about it. He's a nice guy. I do have a lot of respect for him," Peterson said ...

The station received at least 100 phone calls about the interview when it was over ...

Peterson is conducting a series of live interviews with Republican and Democratic candidates as their schedules permit. "Basically, I'm very sympathetic to those guys," he said yesterday. "This is a ridiculous pace they're on, but I think I gave Jack ample opportunity to speak about the issues" ...

Also in the News

As one might expect, those dramatic Saturday night freestyle figure-skating finals, starring Katarina Witt, Debi Thomas and Elizabeth Manley, gave ABC its highest 15-city overnight ratings of the Winter Olympics, and severely depressed CBS ...

Between 7 and 11:15 p.m., ABC averaged a 30.0 Nielsen rating and a 46 percent audience share in the 15 big cities. Each rating point represents 1 percent of the total TV homes in each market, averaged out ...

In the last half hour, when the three skating finalists were on the ice, the 15-city average rose to a 40.2/62 ...

Between 8 and 11 p.m., NBC's usually strong Saturday night comedy lineup could do only a 12.9/20, while CBS fell to a 5.7/9 (during the skating finals, "West 57th" did a 4.3/6) ...

In Washington, ABC coverage on Channel 7 did a 30.2/46, an average that rose to 39.5/61 during the crucial final 30 minutes (each local rating point represents 16,116 TV homes) ...

Incidentally, that cowboy hat Canadian silver medal winner Manley sported after the finals was tossed to her by Larre Barrett, vice president, Olympic sales, for the ABC Television Network. Yes, it sported an ABC pin ...

Catching up with the national ratings for the Games -- even NBC's Super Thursday failed to halt ABC's march to its February triumph as that night's Winter Olympic Games coverage averaged a 20.4 national Nielsen rating and a 30 percent audience share (each rating point represents 886,000 TV homes) ...

NBC did a 19.3/28 from 8 to 11, while CBS averaged a 13.6/20 ...

Regardless, the Olympics have already guaranteed ABC a sure win in the February sweeps, which conclude Wednesday night. More important to the ABC Accounting Office, through Thursday night, ABC enjoyed a half-rating point lead over CBS (14.0/23 to 13.5/22) in the battle for second place in the season-to-date race, a margin CBS will have trouble making up before the race ends in mid-April (NBC at 16.3/27 since September, is uncatchable) ...

Honestly, CBS Evening News! The Saturday night edition of the show had a big piece about the 50th anniversary of Superman, but somehow forgot to mention that CBS Entertainment has a Superman anniversary special on the schedule tonight ...

News leader Channel 9 has launched a new promotion campaign featuring four of its top performers -- J.C. Hayward, Maureen Bunyan and the comedy team of Gordon Peterson and Glenn Brenner ...

The 30-second spots highlight anchor Hayward's image as a role model, anchor Bunyan's "nice little newsbreak" concepts and the nightly "chat time" between sportscaster Brenner and anchor Peterson, his foil (in the first series, Brenner answers a call which turns out to be a raspberry so he hands the phone to Peterson with "it's for you") ...

Eventually, Bob Althage and Gordon Barnes will be included in the campaign ...

The $50,000 campaign was put together by Chuck Blore and Don Richman Inc., Los Angeles commercial producers. Blore created the now-famous AT&T "reach out and touch someone" campaign. He also, however, produced the WUSA commercials featuring the feet of viewers watching Nine news from their beddy-byes -- a recent campaign that got pulled ...

The Debatezzzz

Former NBC and ABC News anchor Linda Ellerbee moderated yesterday afternoon's Houston debate among Democratic presidential hopefuls, replacing CBS' Walter Cronkite ...

A spokesman for Sun Broadcast Association, producers of the event for the sponsoring National Association of Television Program Executives (NATPE), said Cronkite was still official host of the debate. Charles Ashman was expected to interview Cronkite several times during the 90-minute live broadcast ...

The debate was being conducted as NATPE, holding its convention in Houston, marks its 25th year ...

Two panels, including one composed of top Democratic officials and another of graduate political science students from Harvard, Miami University and the universities of Texas and Virginia, were to participate ...

Cronkite withdrew as moderator last week after learning that the NATPE event had been syndicated to 178 stations around the country. Such wide commercial distribution would have put Cronkite in conflict with Sunday network programming on CBS affiliates. ...

In landing Ellerbee, NATPE lucked out. She's in Houston to promote a new late night TV news show she hopes to produce for syndication by King Features Entertainment next January ...

Channel 20 here is carrying the Houston broadcast on a delayed basis tonight at midnight. A Sun official said yesterday WDCA is the only station in a major market not carrying the program live or at least Sunday evening ...

Still another Democratic candidate debate will air on C-SPAN tonight at 6. The live 90-minute program, sponsored by the Democratic Leadership Council, comes from Williamsburg, Va. ...