Rumour du jour: ABC News won't confirm but we've learned that ABC News producer Kyle Gibson will join the network's White House team as a correspondent, replacing Lark McCarthy ...

McCarthy left the network in March to co-anchor Channel 5's "Fox Morning News" ...

Gibson is currently a producer for "PrimeTime Live" in New York. She attracted management's attention a year ago last spring with her on-air audio reports from Tiananmen Square for "Nightline" during the dangerous student protests ...

Insiders say the deal came after she was recently offered a good job at the Frankfurt, West Germany, bureau by NBC News. She would join Brit Hume and Ann Compton at the White House ...

The Washington Redskins-Cleveland Browns telecast Saturday night on Channel 5 drew a 16.4 Nielsen rating and a 33 percent audience share between 7 and 10 p.m. ...

Each ratings point represents 17,278 TV households (see below) ...

The big audience for the Skins helped Five's public affairs show "Off the Record," which was aired right after the game, to a 7.1/13, its best ever (which wasn't all that hard to do since it's normally in the 6:30 Saturday timeslot opposite network news shows) ...

Captain Airwaves, who's a little cranky in this hot weather, called to complain that regardless of the timeslot, "Off the Record" continues to do a poor job of identifying its panelists during the course of a broadcast. We told Airwaves to run through the neighbor's sprinkler again and cool off ...

Tomorrow night, Channel 9 will air a "live forum" featuring the five Democratic D.C. mayoral candidates from 9 to 10 ...

WUSA's Gordon Peterson and Bruce Johnson will moderate the show, which will be conducted before a live audience -- without commercial interruption!! ...

It will also preempt CBS's repeat of "Jake and the Fatman" ...

Isn't it time for CBS News to bring Dan home from the Middle East for a little R&R? ...

In Other News

Channel 5, by the way, continued to dominate the local scene on Sunday nights here, but the station paid for the decision by parent FOX Broadcasting to move "The Simpsons" to Thursday night ...

Total audiences were down for the FOX lineup this past Sunday in Washington, led by the drop at 8:30 where "COPS," which replaced Bart Simpson, averaged a 14.9/25, compared with the 19.5/32 for "The Simpsons" the previous week ...

Likewise, "America's Most Wanted" at 8 did a 13.0/23, off from 17.0/30. But "Married ... With Children" averaged an 18.3/30, up slightly from the previous week's 17.2/29, while "In Living Color" at 9:30 did a 16.5/26 (16.6/28) ...

Regardless of the overall drop for FOX programming, Five won all the time periods between 8 and 10 p.m. ...

Oh yes, about the Nielsen numbers (go ahead, turn to the comics section for a minute. See if we care!). As we reported last week, the ratings company, as of yesterday, increased the total of TV households in the U.S. to 93,100,000, up from 92,100,000 ...

This means that once we get last week's national ratings out of the way, each ratings point will be worth 931,000 TV homes (did I just hear somebody requesting the financial section?) ...

Wait, there's more. Much more! Nielsen told us yesterday that starting Sept. 17 -- the semi-official beginning of the new fall season -- the total number of TV homes in the Washington market, now the seventh largest TV market in the country, will rise 1 percent, from 1,727,800 to 1,749,190 ...

Which means that starting Sept. 17, each local ratings point will represent 17,491 TV homes!!! ...

Talk about something to look forward to this fall, TV Column fans! ...

Along the Ratingzzz Rialto. On Friday night, among the original shows offered on the three networks, ABC's "New Attitude" averaged a 10.4 national Nielsen rating and a 20 share at 9:30 ...

On CBS, "Primetime Pets" did a 7.9/16 at 8, "Wish You Were Here" at 9:30 dipped to a 3.8/7 and the one-hour "Room for Romance" averaged a 5.6/11 ...

On NBC, the NFL exhibition between the L.A. Raiders and the Chicago Bears averaged a 7.2/15 from 8 to 11 ...

The Maryland Public Television stations Sunday ended what could be their last "traditional" pledge fund drive for a while with a record $392,515, an increase of 36 percent over last August's drive. The pledge period got underway Friday, Aug. 17 ...

MPT announced earlier this month that with the drive that just ended, and which featured the usual prolonged fund-raising appeals between and during programs while a couple of rows of dedicated volunteers handled the phone calls, it would be suspending the practice ...

For the foreseeable future, MPT plans, instead, to air brief public service messages periodically throughout its regular schedule asking for viewer support. MPT will also offer a 24-hour automated audiotext service accessible by touch-tone phone to carry program listings and reference information ...

This year's MPT drive, which was also three days shorter than last summer's fund-raising effort, drew 6,634 pledges, an increase of 35 percent from last August ...

Meanwhile, at Channel 26 here, the station's "Pledge-Free" campaign, which began Aug. 1 and has turned out to be just as annoying as the "traditional" method, headed for its Aug. 31 finish line with $110,823 in pledges so far ...

The month-long goal is $150,000 ...

There is some good news out of WETA, however. The end of the PBS-wide "core pledge period," which ran from Thursday, Aug. 16, through Sunday on the station, means a cutback over the last five nights of those too-frequent 10-minute "pledge breaks" featuring promos that repeatedly star senior vice president Sally Wells as a damsel in distress and Robert Aubry Davis as the villain Snidely ...

The number of the little dramas will be reduced to relatively few 30- and 60-second spots, station executives promised Captain Airwaves yesterday when he called from his neighbor's house (after toweling himself off) ...

So far, WETA reports, the two telephone pledge numbers (1-900-535-HELP for $10 pledges, 1-900-535-HERO for $30 pledges) have registered 6,112 calls, including 2,950 from new members ...

(The phone company gets $1.50 for each call) ...

By contrast last year, during the August drive, the station recorded 5,600 calls and also came up with some premiums that cut into overall revenues ...

Editorial

When they're investing between $1 million and $2 million each per week on coverage in the Persian Gulf, while still confined to that 22 1/2-minute squeeze box every night, it's unrealistic to expect that the network news shows are going to spend much time -- if any -- on domestic stories, and certainly not on follow-ups on year-old stories ...

We couldn't help thinking of that this past weekend after word was released Friday that Prince William Sound up in Alaska, site of the remorselessly covered (and very photographable) Exxon Valdez oil spill last year, had just experienced its biggest salmon catch ever ...

The report of the record catch was not carried by any of the network newscasts -- which in less perilous times would seem to throw into question a lot of the overheated rhetoric from anchors and correspondents alike that followed the accident (the two-hour morning network shows, which have some flexibility in these matters, hadn't done any better as of yesterday morning). The environment concerns us all, which is why TV, with all its visual power, should be particularly careful in its reporting on unknowable consequences ...

And Finally

Chicago police yesterday arrested an armed robbery suspect who forced ABC-owned WLS to interrupt broadcasting on Saturday by hiding in its building ...

Police found the man in a closet on the seventh floor of the building that houses WLS about 29 hours after he entered. He was carrying a semiautomatic weapon and about $6,000 in cash believed to have been taken Saturday from a restaurant, according to detective Stephen Stratton ...

WLS went off the air for 25 minutes Saturday night and evacuated about 50 employees after the gunman was spotted in a stairwell. Police searched the building but did not find the gunman, who did not harm anyone or attempt to take hostages. Station personnel rigged a studio at their transmitter and broadcast a special report about the gunman but suspended regular programming, which was resumed at 7 a.m. on Sunday ...