CBS Broadcast Group president Howard Stringer yesterday named Eric W. Ober to succeed David Burke as president of the CBS News division ...

Burke confirmed he was fired when he met with News staffers in New York yesterday to say goodbye after 25 months on the job. He reportedly will be paid in full for the last two years of his current contract ...

Burke was informed three weeks ago by Stringer that he was to be replaced. Disagreements over budgets -- exacerbated by the costs of covering the current Persian Gulf crisis -- and a general dissatisfaction with his management style on the part of CBS Inc. leadership reportedly led to his departure ...

Ober, a 24-year veteran of the network, has been president of the CBS Television Stations since 1987. He represents the News division's sixth change at the top since 1981 ...

Most of the 48-year-old Ober's experience with CBS has been at the station level, where he has served as a news director, newswriter, producer and executive producer as well as vice president and general manager of both WCBS in New York and WBBM in Chicago ...

From 1984 until 1987 he was vice president of public affairs broadcasts at CBS News, where he oversaw production of such primetime programs as "60 Minutes," "West 57th" and "CBS Reports" ...

Yesterday afternoon, Ober met with the senior staff at CBS News. Earlier, he "had a very nice conversation" with "CBS Evening News" anchor Dan Rather in Saudi Arabia ...

"I've known Dan for a long time," said Ober, "we're friends" ...

Predictably, Ober said he has no intention of making any changes at CBS News at this point ...

"I've been watching the coverage in recent weeks just like everybody else," Ober told a reporter, "and this group all has my vote of confidence. They've done a great job in Iraq, both in good straight reporting and from a purely competitive standpoint ...

"My intent right now," Ober continued, "is to walk in and observe and not get in the way. The whole organization -- from Dan on down -- has a total vote of confidence from me" ...

He said that in his informal meeting with executive producers and the senior staff yesterday at West 57th, "it was terrific to look around and know every person in the room, people I've either worked with or knew" ...

That euphoria could disappear soon. Reports persist that the News division is facing further cuts -- perhaps involving as many as 200 people -- when the new budget is announced in November. Burke was reportedly unhappy at the prospect and was prepared to battle CBS Inc. management over the depth of the cuts ...

During his 25 months as the head of CBS News, Burke had tangled frequently with CBS Inc. president Laurence Tisch and the latter's top lieutenant, Jay Kriegel. Ober's comparative "congeniality" was reportedly a factor in the decision to make a change at the top in News ...

Burke's management style vis-a-vis News division personnel, on the other hand, was regarded as cold and remote. It is believed that Stringer and others in top CBS Inc. management felt that in the months ahead a more accessible kind of leadership style was going to be necessary -- particularly if wholesale personnel reductions are finally determined ...

Stringer would not comment on the reasons for Burke's departure yesterday but made a point of predicting that Ober "will galvanize the place. It's a matter of style," he commented. "It would be awfully hard to drive forward if you don't have agreement" throughout the organization ...

Stringer praised Burke, 54, for the "very gracious" manner of his departure yesterday. The departing News president made a point of personally thanking everyone at the West 57th News headquarters before he left the building, according to one eyewitness ...

In a statement, Burke said, "I want to express my deep appreciation to the senior management of CBS for giving me the opportunity to work with a proud, aggressive and deeply professional news organization. Being associated with these good people has been one of the finest experiences of my professional life ...

"It is clear to me, following amicable discussions with the management of CBS, that they would be more comfortable about the future direction of the News division under new leadership. They have the right to make that decision, and I intend fully to cooperate in the transition of leadership responsibilities." Although he cleared out his desk yesterday, his last official day at the network is reportedly Aug. 31 ...

In his official statement, Stringer said, "David Burke, as head of CBS News, has demonstrated great professionalism and integrity. While we have now chosen to go our separate ways, we deeply appreciate all that he has done at CBS News, and wish him success in the future" ...

Stringer, who preceded Burke as head of the CBS News division, yesterday described Ober -- who was in charge of the primetime news programs on his watch -- as "unpretentious and very competitive -- and he knows everybody" ...

No replacement for Ober as president of the owned-stations division has been chosen but Stringer is believed to be considering several current CBS-owned station general managers for the post ...

Burke, for all of his distant style of management, did not lack for admirers at CBS News. If he was short of hands-on, back-slapping camaraderie in the newsroom, during his tenure CBS News made its mark with "48 Hours," coverage of the Tiananmen Square massacre in China and the current coverage of events in the Persian Gulf ...

Several insiders, who asked not to be identified, yesterday praised Burke for his integrity and his success in bringing relative stability to the division during his tenure ...

"I just wish he had been more outgoing," said one. "I never had the feeling he availed himself of all the help that was there ready to be used if he had just asked" ...

In Other News

Connie Sellecca, who was removed last week as the star of ABC's new fall series "Baby Talk," has sued the show's producers for $1.5 million ...

The suit, filed earlier this week in Los Angeles Superior Court, came as reports circulated that Columbia Pictures is trying to sign Julia Duffy, formerly a star with CBS's "Newhart," to replace Sellecca in the series, which is based on the movie "Look Who's Talking" ...

Sellecca claims in her suit against executive producer Ed. Weinberger and Columbia Pictures that Weinberger exercised a contract option obligating Columbia to pay her $45,000 an episode for a minimum of seven shows, plus a share of the show's profits, while also providing a secretary and an office. The suit alleges that Weinberger subsequently reneged on his promises and verbally abused her in "a fit of rage." Neither Weinberger nor Columbia had an immediate comment on the suit ...

As for Duffy, CBS has a contract with her for a series in which she would co-star with Peter Scolari, who played her husband on "Newhart." Wire services say Allison LaPlaca, who has appeared in "Duet" and "Open House," is also a candidate for the role ...

Channel 26's breakthrough Pledge-Free August fund-raising campaign had raised $65,000 toward a goal of $150,000 by mid-week. The drive, which began Aug. 1, ends Aug. 31 ...

So far, WETA has received 3,500 calls, including pledges from 1,500 new members. The goal is 10,000 calls and the station says the pace is picking up. A $10 call should go to 1-900-535-HELP. A $30 pledge call should go to 1-900-535-HERO ...

That's 1-900-535-HELP and 1-900-535-HERO (End of free ad for WETA) ...

The premiere of the new Jane Curtin sitcom, "Working It Out," didn't work out nationally Wednesday night for NBC but it was big in Washington ...

"Working" did only a 10.8 national Nielsen rating and a 19 share while on Channel 4 here it knocked out a 16.4/27 at 9 p.m... .

We won't bore you with the particulars, but each national ratings point represents 921,000 TV households, while a local point represents 17,278 TV homes ...

Also Wednesday night on the local scene, a Channel 9-produced "Music Video Connection" special called "Super Megamix 90" averaged a 7.7/13 between 8 and 10 p.m... .

As long as we're strolling along the Ratings Rialto this morning, TV Column fans (say what you will about the seemingly endless rains this summer, the trees have never been lovelier on the Rialto), we should note that ABC News's "This Week With David Brinkley," with Barbara Walters at the helm and Defense Secretary Richard Cheney live from Bahrain last Sunday, averaged a 4.3/15 national Nielsen rating, its best for more than a year! ...

That compared with a 2.8/11 for NBC's "Meet the Press" and a 2.7/10 for CBS News's "Face the Nation" ...

And ABC's "Good Morning America" won the morning network race last week with a 3.9/20, compared with a 3.2/16 for NBC's "Today" and a 2.4/13 for "CBS This Morning" ...

Chicago Tribune cartoonist Jeff MacNelly, who works out of the bureau here and whose comic strip "Shoe" appears in more than 1,000 papers, will be on "This Is Baseball" tomorrow on Channel 4 at 4 p.m... .