The White House yesterday informed Channel 26 here that WXXI, the public TV station in Rochester, N.Y., has been named producing station for the "In Performance at the White House" series ...

The decision ends 14 years of "In Performance" productions by WETA, going back to the Carter administration ...

Over the years, the WETA productions have included some of the biggest names in the performing arts. The programs, three or four a year, have been taped on Sunday afternoons in the East Room of the White House with the First Family usually in attendance, along with invited guests, and are aired on primetime on PBS a couple of weeks later ...

Sig Rogich, assistant to the president for public events and initiatives, said yesterday, "We thought it would be healthy to spread the production around the public TV system, healthy on a creative basis" ...

He emphasized that "they're great people at WETA and I'm sure we'll continue to work with them again from time to time. They're all in the same family, providing fine programming for the public broadcasting viewer" ...

Rogich said no format has been finalized and no programs in the series would be produced until sometime next year by WXXI, Channel 21 ...

He said future programs in the series will be taped at the White House, and discounted rumors that other locations around the country would be selected to give President and Mrs. Bush added exposure as an election year approached. The rumors apparently arose when responsibility for the broadcasts was shifted this year for the first time from the office of the First Lady to the West Wing ...

"Historically, three or four programs have been taped at the White House each year and I see no major change in that idea." Rogich did hint that the series title might yield to something a little more exciting, like "Live From the White House," before the series returns to the air ...

WXXI apparently came to the attention of the White House with its proposal to tape the "White House Lectures" this year, a favorite project of President and Mrs. Bush in which major historians discuss previous residents at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. WXXI's productions have been distributed on PBS's adult learning schedule, usually for classroom use. Earlier this year, Harvard historian David Donald talked about Lincoln, and on Nov. 6 PBS will distribute a lecture by David McCullough on Teddy Roosevelt ...

The hour-long lectures are introduced by the president, and he and Mrs. Bush are in the audience at the White House ...

William Pearce, president of WXXI, declined to discuss details of the station's plans for "In Performance," deferring to Rogich and the White House. However, he did say several potential underwriters have been approached. Xerox underwrites the lecture series ...

"We've demonstrated we're a first-class production unit over the years," Pearce said yesterday ...

In recent years, Ameritech has underwritten the WETA productions of "In Performance at the White House," contributing some $700,000 annually ...

"In Performance" has never been a ratings winner, despite the roster of show business and concert artists who have appeared. However, the show's connection with the White House has undoubtedly enhanced WETA's image in this image-conscious town ...

The last two outings of "In Performance" this year attracted an average audience of almost 2 million TV households, according to PBS yesterday ...

WETA senior vice president for production and programming Richard Hutton said yesterday, "We're deeply disappointed, of course, but we've talked to Sig and we understand his position and his decision. It's always been an important part of our undertakings here and we certainly expect and hope to continue to do programming with the White House in the future" ...

In Other News

Marla Wynne, who was dubbed "the ugliest" contestant in the Miss America Pageant by talk show host Larry King on "The Joan Rivers Show" on Monday, yesterday took the high road when she appeared with Rivers ...

"I think he didn't understand what the pageant was about," said Wynne. "If he knew the work, and the hours, and the blood, sweat and tears that went into it, he wouldn't have been so quick to be insensitive" ...

"She was incredibly gracious," a spokesperson for the syndicated show said after the broadcast ...

King sent Wynne a telegram apologizing for his remarks along with some flowers on Tuesday ...

The latest Times-Mirror monthly news interest index has a nice surprise for the Cable News Network ...

In a poll of 1,244 people nationwide conducted over the first three days of this week on their reactions to media coverage of the Iraqi coverage, CNN got the most mentions as the news network doing the best job -- 27 percent. ABC followed at 21, while CBS and NBC were cited by considerably fewer -- 14 and 13 percent, respectively ...

In the matter of scoops, 20 percent were able to recall that CBS's Dan Rather got the first exclusive interview with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein but only 5 percent could recall that ABC's Ted Koppel was the first correspondent to report from Baghdad ...

The poll indicated that Saddam's exchanges on TV with the hostages backfired. Among the 52 percent of those polled who saw the Hussein chats, 70 percent said the sight made them more likely to favor military action against the Iraqis ...

The poll, conducted by the Times-Mirror Center for the People and Press, also said 63 percent of those polled still follow the story very closely ...

CBS and Tokyo Broadcasting System will combine their resources and technology to create the world's largest satellite news-gathering system, it was announced yesterday ...

According to the announcement, the long-term agreement "will enable both networks to exchange news footage and programming and to expand their worldwide news-gathering facilities," making available "instantaneous news coverage throughout North and South America, Europe and Asia" ...

By the way, CBS News still won't confirm, but the division is definitely assigning people to its late night half-hour to be anchored by Lesley Stahl and Charles Kuralt. We hear a senior producer has been picked. But still no date on its debut as a regular program ...

CBS and PBS won 10 awards each and TBS's "National Geographic Explorer" series picked up four -- more than any other program -- at the annual news and documentary Emmys in New York ...

ABC won six and NBC five. CNN, FOX, HBO and MTV each won one, as did an independently produced syndicated program ...

Forty winners were chosen from more than 900 entries in news, analysis, investigative reporting, interviews and programming on history and culture ...

For general coverage of a breaking news story, CBS's "48 Hours" won the program award for "Hurricane Watch" and "NBC Nightly News With Tom Brokaw" won the segment award for coverage of turmoil in Romania ...

In the category of outstanding instant coverage of a breaking news story, NBC News won for its special "China in Crisis" and CNN won for its coverage of China ...

Local winners, besides the Geographic, include CBS News's "Face the Nation" (for a John Tower interview), its first under Lesley Stahl's anchorship. And Washington Media Associates won for "The Education of Admiral Watkins," which was produced for the PBS "AIDS Quarterly" series, in the category of outstanding background analysis of a single current story. Sherry Jones, Elizabeth Sams and Foster Wiley shared in the Emmy ...

Meanwhile, the New Season continues apace. Wednesday night, the "National Crime Test" special on CBS averaged a 6.8 national Nielsen rating and a 12 percent audience share (which, I think, means we all flunked), ABC's "Doogie Howser, M.D." showed up for another season with a 15.8/26, "Jake & the Fatman" waddled on for another year at CBS for a 12.6/21 and NBC's "The Fanelli Boys" wound up third at 9 p.m. with a 10.2/17 in its regular time slot ...

An inside look at ABC's "America's Funniest Home Videos" did a 15.8/26 at 9:30, while the second run of ABC's "Gabriel's Fire" did a 14.3/26 ...

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

Locally, where each precious ratings point represents 17,278 TV homes, "Gabriel's Fire" on Seven averaged a 12.5/21, while "The Fanelli Boys" on Four did a 10.9/17 ...

CBS's crime test special did a 7.9/13 on Nine ...

On Election Night, when it got a late start in many markets, including Washington, "Late Night With David Letterman" took official notice of the mice that are running around the NBC Nightly News newsroom in New York. A shot of a couple of huge rats running across Tom Brokaw's anchor desk was superimposed on a still of Tom as he interviewed chief financial correspondent Mike Jensen ...

Letterman planned to repeat the joke on last night's program but it had to be cut when he ran out of time. He still wants to do it again and it could even show up on tonight's broadcast ...