A $5.2 million libel damage award to singer Wayne Newton against NBC was overturned yesterday by a federal appeals court in San Francisco. The court said a 1980 broadcast suggesting mob ties in Newton's purchase of a casino was not shown to be deliberately or recklessly false ...

A Las Vegas jury had found that NBC News's story of a federal investigation of the singer's acquisition of the Aladdin Hotel and Casino had created a false impression that criminal organizations had helped in the purchase in exchange for a hidden share and that Newton had deceived Nevada gaming officials ...

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 3 to 0 ruling, said most of the factual statements in the broadcast were undisputed and any false impressions had not been shown to be deliberate or reckless ...

NBC News president Michael Gartner yesterday said, in a statement, "We're very pleased with the decision, the unanimity of the decision and the language of the decision. It is based on well-established legal principles and represents a sound victory for investigative journalism" ...

Eeeek! Little brown mice are running loose in the huge NBC News studios and newsroom on the third floor of Rockefeller Center and female employees say the men just laugh at their complaints ...

Things are so bad, someone at the network news desk has inserted an "Of Mice and Men" category in the computer. The count for Wednesday, for instance, read "Mice 2, Men 0" ...

"One of the women found a mouse in her tote bag" when she got home recently, a caller charged yesterday. She claimed that mice have even been seen running past anchor Tom Brokaw's office but "nobody around here will do anything until a mouse runs across Tom's anchor desk during a broadcast" ...

From the safety of her office on the 14th floor at 30 Rock yesterday, Peggy Hubble, director of news information, said yesterday, "I've been told there's always been mice in Rockefeller Center." But she confirmed that two have been found in recent days on the third floor, which includes Studio 3A, where "NBC Nightly News" is broadcast from; 3B, home of the "Today" show; the newsroom; and Brokaw's office down the hall. The third floor was refurbished at a cost of some $3 million a few years back ...

Across town at CBS News, staffers were plagued for years by flies left over from the days when the West 57th headquarters was a dairy ...

ABC News NewsSylvia Chase, who left "20/20" in 1986 for a news anchor job at KRON in San Francisco, is returning as a correspondent for "PrimeTime Live" as of Oct. 15 ...

In her last year at KRON, Chase won a George Foster Peabody Award for a documentary on Bay Area homeless and a Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award for a program on infant mortality among the poor ...

So why is she returning? "I was in Paris when Tiananmen Square happened a year ago and now there's the incredible events in Eastern Europe and I suddenly realized that I wanted to be part of the national and international reporting scene again" ...

She also says, "I'm really happy to be working for {ABC News president} Roone Arledge again... . He's a genius" ...

Chase and her former "20/20" producer, Stanhope Gould, who joined her at KRON in 1986, were critical of Arledge in their final year on the magazine show when he refused to air a segment about Marilyn Monroe and the Kennedys (although it was Geraldo Rivera who made the most noise about it) ...

But that's apparently all forgotten. Gould, who often produced segments for Chase at KRON, himself joined "PrimeTime Live" as a producer earlier this month ...

And Veronique Rodman, who was the original booker for "This Week With David Brinkley" when it debuted in 1981, but left for a non-TV job in private industry a couple of years ago, is returning to the ABC News program ...

There's talk that in addition to resuming her job as the chief weekly talent scout -- lining up the guests for the No. 1 Sunday network public affairs show -- she'll get the title of senior producer. That job, if not the title, was vacated when weekend producer Marianna Spicer-Brooks left in July to become executive producer of CBS News's "Face the Nation" ...

Freelance producer Carol Ross Joynt has been the booker for "This Week With David Brinkley" for the past year. No decision on whether she'll remain with the network when Rodman returns, but management gives her high marks for the job she's done ...

Bryant Gumbel's trip to Saudi Arabia did well for NBC's "Today" show last week. Oh sure, it still finished second behind ABC's "Good Morning America" for the 34th week in a row, but it was up 16 percent from the last week and enjoyed its highest rating since Academy Awards week in late March and its closest finish behind GMA since Christmas week 1989 ...

In all, audiences for the three morning network shows together are up 8 percent since the Persian Gulf crisis erupted the first week in August ...

For the week ending Aug. 24, GMA was first at 3.9/19 on the Nielsen scale, followed by "Today" at 3.7/18 and "CBS This Morning" at 2.4/11 ...

And "Today" announced yesterday that Katie Couric will be broadcasting from Saudi Arabia starting Wednesday ...

Oh-oh. While the ole rabbit ears were getting a tuneup out West recently (as Airwaves stocked up on a supply of very attractive and biodegradable pink and blue wrappings), we neglected to report that:

Amy Green and Don Thrasher became the proud parents of Bernard Thomas Green Thrasher, who weighed 6 pounds 1 ounce on arrival ...

Mom is an associate producer at CBS News's "Nightwatch." Dad is a producer for "20/20" in Washington. B.T.G. Thrasher joined sister Emily ...

And ABC News general assignment correspondent Jeanne Meserve gave birth to Julia Meserve Blount, who weighed 7 pounds 3 ounces on arrival ...

Proud papa is Jeffrey Blount, an associate director with NBC News ...

More RatingzzzChannel 9's special Wednesday night featuring the five Democrats vying for the mayoral nomination in the Sept. 11 primary drew a 7.3 rating and a 13 percent audience share between 9 and 10 ...

The sometimes raucous hour, which was a lot of fun to watch if something short of the Lincoln-Douglas debates, finished third in its timeslot locally, behind the comedy lineups on NBC's Four and ABC's Seven ...

Nine plans another special after the primary pitting the Democratic and Republican finalists ...

Immediately following "D.C. Democratic Mayoral Candidates Forum," the one-hour CBS News special featuring Dan Rather's interview with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein averaged a 6.2/11 on Nine ...

Each local ratings point represents 17,278 households ...

Nationally, the 10 p.m. CBS News hour averaged an 8.0/16, attracting roughly 10.6 million viewers, according to CBS research. It finished third behind reruns of NBC's "Hunter" (10.8/21) and ABC's "Equal Justice" (8.2/16) in the time period ...

Each national ratings point represents 931,000 TV homes ...

The second CBS News special late Wednesday night about the Rather interview averaged a 5.1/14 in Nielsen's 24-city overnight markets, finishing behind NBC's 7.1/19 and ABC News's "Nightline" at 6.1/18 for the same half hour ...

The unedited Rather interview -- more than an hour in length -- began moving from Baghdad to a relay point in Amman, Jordan, and then to New York about 6:10 Wednesday night. "Evening News" staffers hurriedly edited a few minutes of the first portions in time for the first (6:30 p.m.) feed of "Evening News," as the interview continued to arrive at CBS past 7 p.m... .

"60 Minutes" executive producer Don Hewitt and his team put the one-hour 10 p.m. special together while special events executive producer Lane Venardos's crew assembled the late-night program ...

Hewitt, by the way, yesterday posted a memo at the CBS Evening News "fishbowl" that made sure that David Burke, who was ousted as CBS News president last week, three weeks after he was notified his dismissal was in the works, wasn't forgotten ...

"As we all bask this morning in the reflected glory of what Dan and Tom {Bettag, Rather's executive producer} accomplished last night," Hewitt wrote, "I think it fitting to give at least a small nod to the unsung hero of what CBS News wrought yesterday. David Burke, playing with a stacked deck, his days numbered (and he was well aware of it), kept his eye on the ball and never let his own difficulties become ours ...

"Right to the end, he was in there fighting to make sure his guys won the day in the Gulf. What a classy way to leave the premises!" ...