The syndicated "Jesse Jackson" series -- beset by low ratings in most major markets in its first month -- got a new executive producer Friday ...

Adam Clayton Powell III took over from Michael Linder, who was hired to build the show (originally titled "The Jesse Jackson Show") from the ground up eight months ago. Powell, most recently consultant to the Minority Television Project in San Francisco, is a former vice president of news and information programming at National Public Radio here. He also has been a producer at TV's "CBS Morning News," an executive of CBS Radio and news director of WINS radio in New York -- where he took the station to number one in the nation's largest market ...

Linder, who had previously created FOX's "America's Most Wanted" series, said Friday the decision to step down had been his alone. He said he is already working on two series projects for network TV but would be available to help Powell during the transition this week ...

Although "Jesse Jackson," which stars probably America's most widely recognized black politician, is taped every Wednesday at the WRC studios here, its debut in the D.C. and Baltimore markets has been delayed until Nov. 11 because of Jackson's candidacy for "shadow senator" from the District ...

Channel 4 will air the program at 8 a.m. on Sundays. Channel 2 in Baltimore will air the program at 11:30 Sunday nights ...

Kevin Wendle, president of Quincy Jones Entertainment Co., which produces the one-hour weekly public affairs program, declined Friday to blame poor ratings for the change ...

"We're doing as well as Arsenio Hall did in his first few weeks. But we've been looking at some possible changes. We're working with the most unique personality in America, and we need to make 'Jesse Jackson' a program that matches him" ...

Wendle said the series, which has been devoted to a single subject in each of its first four weeks, will probably expand to include several topics weekly. He said that David Duke, the former Klan chief who as a Republican recently lost an election race with Democrat Sen. J. Bennett Johnston in Louisiana, has agreed to appear on an upcoming program ...

The Rev. Jackson met with African American publishers and broadcasters here last week as part of the effort to expand black audiences for the show ...

"In a lot of markets people don't know where the show is," Wendles said Friday. "I don't think we've adequately marketed for the black audience. We're going to do our damndest to help stations learn about us" ...

Wendle said he expects Powell to continue the "tinkering process" that has already begun on the program. "It takes four or six or 10 episodes to groove a new show. But any program that has people like Quincy Jones, Jesse Jackson and Adam Clayton Powell III behind it is too important. It cannot fail; we will not allow it to fail. We need to produce some terrific shows" ...

Wendle praised Linder for getting the program off the ground. "He did an excellent job. It's just time to move to another phase" ...

It was unclear Friday whether any more changes would be made in the production staff of about 15, which is about equally divided among white and minority members. Linder had brought two line producers from his "America's Most Wanted" series to "Jesse Jackson" last February ...

A spokesman for Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution said Friday that so far there have been no defections by any of the 136 stations that have purchased the program and predicted that most would wait to see what happens during the crucial November ratings sweeps before considering cancellations ...

So far, according to A.C. Nielsen, "Jesse Jackson" has been a major bust. In its most recent survey of 149 programs syndicated nationally this fall, Nielsen ranked "Jackson" in 82nd place, with a miniscule 1.8 rating, representing 1.6 million TV homes nationwide, after its first two weekend telecasts on the 128 stations reporting ...

At least as alarming, on Sunday, Oct. 14, "Jesse Jackson" averaged only a 0.2 rating and a 1 share on independent KCAL in Los Angeles at 11 p.m. and a 0.9/1 on WPIX in New York in the valuable 9 p.m. timeslot ...

(By comparison, the number one rated syndicated show over the same period was "Wheel of Fortune," which averaged a 13.0 rating on 219 stations) ...

Linder said, however, that the program has done well in the Atlanta, St. Louis and Detroit markets, achieving as high as 27 shares for particular broadcasts. "A lot of the stations are still shuffling the timeslots and that hasn't helped" ...

In the first four weeks, Jackson has hosted discussions of the Canadian confrontation with Mohawk Indians; college loans; college athletes; and -- over this past weekend -- environmental racism issues (e.g., locating a toxic waste dump in a poor neighborhood). Crime has been chosen as the topic for next weekend's program although Powell could change that assignment ...

Said Linder: "I came in to develop the program and get it rolling. It's been a pleasure and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work with Jesse Jackson and Quincy Jones and to be in on the process of rethinking the concept of talk television and issue broadcasting. I wish the Rev. Jackson all the success in the world in his use of the medium on behalf of the disenfranchised" ...

In Other News

Round two of the big Thursday night Confrontation between NBC's Bill Cosby and FOX's Simpsons produced mixed results last week ...

"The Cosby Show" was a clear winner in the ratings this time around, but "The Simpsons" maintained the edge in total viewers (i.e., viewers-per-set) ...

For the night, "Cosby" averaged an 18.5 national Nielsen rating and a 29 percent audience, matching exactly its performance the first week. "The Simpsons," which averaged an 18.4/29 in its premiere the week before, fell 12 percent to a 16.2/25 during the same half hour ...

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

However, Homer and Bart attracted 29,870,000 total viewers compared with Bill's 28,510,000. Some 49 percent of the kiddies ages 2 to 11 and 46 percent of the teens, 12 to 17, were tuned to the FOX show at 8 p.m... .

With the World Series taking a rest on CBS that night, last Thursday was the first time this season that all four networks had their regular schedules in place for the evening. During that same leadoff half hour, the first half of ABC's "Father Dowling Mysteries" averaged a 9.5/15 compared with a 7.3/11 for the debut of a half-hour version of CBS's "Top Cops" ...

For the night, longtime Thursday champion NBC was a clear winner, averaging an 18.2/30 from 8 to 11, compared with a 10.0/16 for CBS, a 9.4/15 for ABC and an 8.7/14 for FOX ...

CBS's "Flash," which was heavily promoted during the first two games of the World Series on that network, did a 9.1/14 at 8:30, while "Babes" quickly lost FOX's early advantage by dropping to an 8.0/13 in the same half hour ...

"L.A. Law" made a triumphant return to NBC at 10, averaging a 16.9/29 ...

In Washington, "The Cosby Show" on Channel 4 was the winner at 8 with a 19.5/31, compared with a 17.8/28 for "The Simpsons" on Five, an 11.6/18 for "Father Dowling" on Seven and a 5.5/9 for "Top Cops" on Nine ...

"L.A. Law" did a 10.0/32 on Four ...

Each local ratings point represents 17,491 TV homes. But you knew that ...

Now This

Okay, we've wondered about it, too: Ben Meyer, the chief deputy public defender in Los Angeles and Rosie's boss on CBS's "The Trials of Rosie O'Neill," will explain why he wears a yarmulke at work on tonight's broadcast ...

Meyer (actor Ron Rifkin) will tell Rosie (Sharon Gless) that he wears the skull cap because "it gives me constant awareness that there's something above me -- God. It also lets the other people know that I'm very proud of who I am" ...

ABC News launched a new promotion effort yesterday on "This Week With David Brinkley." The network's top anchors talk about freedom -- and then an announcer points out that audiences with freedom of choice have picked ABC. That's cute ...

Between 5 and 7 p.m. anyway on Thursday, WUSA was the station of choice for reports on the Big Storm, as its news shows averaged a 10.8/22. After a bad start, WJLA finished strong from 5:30 to 6:30 (8.1/17 after a 5.1/12) while WRC averaged a 7.5/15 ...

C-SPAN is frosted because ABC News correspondent Barbara Walters's agents have effectively barred its cameras from providing gavel-to-gavel coverage of today's Burger King-sponsored symposium on excellence in education at the Capital Hilton ...

Walters is due to give a speech and then moderate a panel on media in the classroom, but the restrictions her people set for taping her appearances (two-minute limits, etc.) were so restrictive C-SPAN will pass her up. The public affairs cable network expects to provide coverage of the appearances of Coca-Cola Chairman Roberto Goizueta, Rep. Augustus Hawkins (D-Ill.), chairman James Hunt of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and Jesse Jackson at the symposium, however ...

"Somehow, it's always the journalists who do this to us," a C-SPAN executive complained yesterday ...