Commentator Andy Rooney of "60 Minutes" said Friday that he had dropped a planned criticism of a United Negro College Fund contribution from the broadcast because he feared being called a racist. Rooney was suspended by CBS News earlier this year after controversial comments about blacks and homosexuals were attributed to him ...

He told the Associated Press Managing Editors convention in Dallas that he had planned to say that billionaire Walter Annenberg's $50 million contribution to the fund should not have been made because the organization is an unneeded reminder of a segregated America ...

But, said Rooney, he was talked out of the TV commentary and a related newspaper column by several black friends, including "60 Minutes" colleague Ed Bradley ...

"After my unpleasant experience, I regret to say that I have pulled back some. It was a chilling experience. ... I don't want to be known as a racist" ...

Rooney was suspended from the broadcast in February and reinstated March 4, the same day that Annenberg announced his donation to the fund ...

After his Friday speech, Rooney told Ed Bark of the Dallas Morning News that Annenberg should have donated money to "colleges of America," not to an organization that calls attention to students' race. "Would it be right if he {Annenberg} gave to an all-white college? No, it wouldn't," he said. "To promote segregation by having separate schools for blacks is wrong, in my opinion" ...

Calls from candidates, their media buyers and TV stations around the country have made this "the busiest period I've been through in 20 years," says Milton Gross, the chief of the Federal Communications Commission's fairness and political programming branch ...

In recent weeks, he and two other FCC lawyers -- deliberately keeping phone calls to 10 minutes each when they can -- have been working 10 hours a day responding to queries, mostly about political advertising ...

A rule on the books since 1972 requires that stations offer candidates their lowest unit charges for ad time -- the same rate stations offer their most favored commercial advertisers. But a survey earlier this fall by the FCC showed 80 percent of the stations monitored weren't in compliance, and the agency let the industry know it was watching ...

"Basically, we've been putting the candidates and the stations in communication with each other," Gross said Friday. "It's been an education process" ...

Moving Right Along

Former "NBC Nightly News" executive producer Bill Wheatley Friday was named director of political coverage by News president Michael Gartner...

Wheatley's new job puts him in charge of planning, overseeing and implementing the network's political coverage for the 1992 political year, between now and Inauguration Day in January 1993. Wheatley was replaced by Steve Friedman at "Nightly News" in May ...

Gartner also announced that Tel Aviv correspondent Martin Fletcher has taken on the additional duty of bureau chief there, replacing Ike Seamans, who was recently appointed bureau chief in Moscow ...

Three new correspondents, after a brief pause at NBC HQ in New York for training, also got their marching orders. Deborah Roberts was assigned to the Miami bureau, Ann Curry to Chicago and Margaret Pelley to Burbank ...

As expected, Maureen O'Boyle has been named the 1991-92 anchor of the 20th Century Fox TV show "A Current Affair" ...

She's anchored the syndicated show for the past four weeks, replacing Maury Povich, who Fox insists is still due to return as host before his contract runs out in June ...

Povich is due to take over a new Paramount show next fall, and that association has graveled Fox, which went out of its way in the Friday announcement on O'Boyle to point out that the show had picked up "more than one million viewers" since her sub-anchoring began in October ...

She's been with the show as a correspondent producer and backup anchor since July 1988 after making the long jump from KREM-TV in Spokane ...

Just for the heck of it, let's point out that in Washington last month "A Current Affair," on WTTG, ranked third at 7:30 weeknights, behind WJLA's "Jeopardy!" and WUSA's "Entertainment Tonight" ...

Ratingzzz Roundup

NBC had an easy time of it Thursday night, winning primetime with an 18.4 national Nielsen average and a 30 percent audience share ...

A special one-hour version of "The Cosby Show" finally managed to beat "The Simpsons" at 8 p.m. in both total households and total audience categories for the first time since the battle of original episodes began between the NBC and Fox series four weeks ago ...

"Cosby" averaged a 20.2/31 for the hour, but at 8 p.m. it averaged an 18.6/29, compared with "The Simpsons' " 15.8/25 ...

That represented a bulge of 2.6 million in both homes and viewers for Bill over Bart, who had previously always delivered more people-per-set ...

"Cosby's" ratings performance was its best so far this new season. The episode was seen by 28.7 million total viewers. Among adults 18 to 49, the Simpsons won the men, Cosby the women ...

Otherwise Thursday night on NBC, No. 1 "Cheers" did a 22.4/35, followed by "Grand" with 15.2 and "L.A. Law" with 16.3/29 ...

CBS was a distant second with a 10.3/17 average for the night. "Top Cops" averaged an 8.2/13, the one-hour "Flash" an 8.6/14, "Doctor, Doctor" an 8.7/14 and "Knots Landing" a 13.8/24 ...

ABC slumped to an 8.5/14 for the night after "Father Dowling Mysteries" delivered a 10.4/16. "Gabriel's Fire" followed with a 9.3/15, then the ABC News special on abortion, "Peter Jennings Reporting: The New Civil War," fell off to a 5.8/10, just in case any politicians were watching ...

Fox averaged an 8.5/14 between 8 and 10. After Bart, "Babes" did a 7.4/12. The one-hour "Beverly Hills 90210" fell off to 5.4/9 ...

Needless to say, each national rating point represents 931,000 TV homes ...

Locally on Thursday, the one-hour "D.C. Mayoral Forum" on Channel 9 (which displaced "The Flash" for the night) averaged a 4.4 rating and a 7 percent audience share between 8:30 and 9:30. Needless to say, each local ratings point represents 17,491 TV homes ...

Elsewhere, "The Cosby Show" on WRC did a 19.1/29 (19.3/31 for the full hour) in its half-hour against "The Simpsons" (18.0/28) on WTTG. Also at 8, "Top Cops" on Nine averaged a 5.5/9, while a full hour of "Father Dowling" on WJLA did a 9.4/14 ...

WTTG's "Babes" did a 10.7/16 at 8:30, up some three ratings points from a week ago ...

At 10, "L.A. Law" on WRC did a 16.9/30, while the Jennings special on abortion did a 4.9/9 on WJLA ...

And thank you, ABC Entertainment, for giving fans of "The Mod Squad" a chance to get reacquainted with three former Squadders during the November ratings sweeps. You're too kind ...

Peggy Lipton, who played Julie Barnes on the old ABC series (1968-73), of course, is a regular on "Twin Peaks"; Clarence Williams III (Linc Hayes) showed up on this past Thursday's "Gabriel's Fire"; and Michael Cole (Pete Cochran) will appear in the concluding episode, Tuesday, Nov. 20, of the two-part ABC miniseries "Stephen King's It," which begins Sunday, Nov. 18. Michael won't be It, however ...

And Finally

More than 400 attended the memorial service for CBS anchor-correspondent Douglas Edwards Friday at the Society for Ethical Culture in Manhattan ...

The service concluded with his old friend Charles Osgood at the piano, playing a couple of Edwards's favorites -- "It Had to Be You" and "Over the Rainbow" -- as well as a few notes from the old Oldsmobile theme that for so many years introduced Edwards's news show ...

Don Hewitt recalled the night that film of Bobby Thomson's pennant-winning home run for the Giants in 1951 arrived so late in the studio that no one had a chance to check it before it was spliced into the program's film package -- upside down ...

"Leave it to Doug," said the "60 Minutes" executive producer, who worked with Edwards on the early CBS news show. "He just let it run and when it was over he said the only thing there was to be said: 'If you ever wondered what a home run looked like upside down, now you know' " ...