Harry Reasoner, who launched CBS News's hugely successful "60 Minutes" with "co-editor" Mike Wallace on Sept. 24, 1968, confirmed yesterday that he is stepping down when the current season ends in late spring 1991 ...

He will remain with the program as "editor emeritus" and as an occasional "contributing correspondent" next season ...

Reasoner said yesterday he had notified executive producer Don Hewitt of his decision "two or three weeks ago." He confided in a couple of producer pals at the network but word leaked yesterday in New York before the network could make a formal announcement ...

Reasoner, 67, has had two operations for lung cancer in recent years but said yesterday he was in good health. "After 53 years in the business, I just decided to take it a little easier," he said. "But I am delighted that my connection with '60 Minutes' will be altered and not ended" ...

The millions of "60 Minutes" viewers who have watched Reasoner over the years might have been surprised by how subdued the veteran skeptic sounded yesterday talking to a reporter. But he perked up eventually to joke that he "got tired of waiting around for my boss to retire first" ...

Hewitt, the creator of "60 Minutes," will be 68 next month and shows no sign of stepping down from leadership of the program that, in its 23rd season on the air, is currently ranked second, behind only NBC's "Cheers," in the network primetime race so far this season ...

Hewitt said yesterday that no replacement is planned for Reasoner since five correspondents remain on the program ...

They include Wallace, who is 72; Morley Safer, who was 59 yesterday and joined "60 Minutes" in late 1970; Ed Bradley, 49, on the show since the 1981-82 season; and Steve Kroft, 45, and Meredith Vieira, 36, who both joined the program in May of last year ...

Reasoner, who began his journalism career in print journalism at the Minneapolis Times in 1942, moved to broadcasting in 1950 at WCCO in Minneapolis, and after three years with the U.S. Information Agency in Manila returned to the Twin Cities as news director of KEYD-TV. In July 1956, he joined CBS News in New York and anchored the "CBS Sunday News" from February 1963 until November 1970. In 1965-66, he was a White House correspondent for the network ...

In 1970, he was lured to ABC News, where he anchored the "ABC Evening News" for eight years before returning to CBS and "60 Minutes" in December 1978. His stay at ABC News included two visibly unhappy years as co-anchor with Barbara Walters starting in 1976, which eventually led to his return to CBS ...

For his work on documentaries, on major news stories and special projects, such as the "Reasoner Reports," he has been the recipient of several top broadcasting awards, including national Emmys in 1974, 1981 and 1983 and a George Foster Peabody Award in 1967 ...

In a statement, Hewitt said: "Everybody who comes into broadcast journalism should make even one-tenth the contribution Harry has made, not only to '60 Minutes' but to every facet of CBS News. I could say 'he will be missed,' but he won't be. He'll be right here looking over my shoulder and keeping us on the straight and narrow" ...

He later told a reporter, "I guess you could say {Reasoner's semi-retirement} is the natural evolution of things, as God planned it" ...

Now ThisChannel 4, where the weekly program is produced, will finally introduce the syndicated "Jesse Jackson" hour Sunday morning at 8 ...

Equal-time rules governing political campaign appearances on TV had kept the program hosted by the Rev. Jackson, successful candidate for shadow senator from the District of Columbia, off the air in both Washington and Baltimore until after Election Day ...

Allan Horlick, general manager of Channel 4, suggested yesterday it's probably a good thing too ...

"Washington viewers got a break," said Horlick. "They didn't have to sit through the first four shows." Critics were almost unanimous that the first productions were substandard, prompting a change in the production staff that put Adam Clayton Powell III in charge of the show, along with former CNN executive producer Randy Douthit on a temporary basis ...

"I've seen the fifth and sixth shows," said Horlick, "and under Powell and Douthit they are very good television shows; originally, 'Jesse Jackson' left a lot to be desired" ...

The seventh program, which will air on Sunday as the series is introduced on both WRC and WMAR in Baltimore, is on the topic of "How Free Is 'Free Speech' " ...

"Jesse Jackson" has been pretty much a bust so far in the very competitive national syndication competition ...

According to the latest figures from Nielsen's syndicated program service, the Quincy Jones Entertainment Co. production had averaged a 1.8 rating after five appearances, to rank 85th among 154 programs ranked ...

In the latest weekly survey, for the week of Oct. 22-28, "Jesse Jackson" averaged a 1.6 rating, which earned it a tie for 78th among 112 programs ...

By comparison, number one "Wheel of Fortune" has averaged a 12.6 for the season on 220 stations and a 13.6 during Oct. 22-28 ...

At Four, the program will take the place of "America's Black Forum" and Four's own "Newsforum" on Sunday morning, programs which averaged a 1.6 and a 2.7 rating, respectively, during October, so expectations are already modest ...

"America's Black Forum" will move to 12:30 a.m. Sunday nights; "Newsforum" to 7 a.m. Sunday ...

In Other NewsABC's "Cop Rock" averaged a 5.7 national Nielsen rating Wednesday night. CBS's new "WIOU" averaged a 10.0/19 during the same hour. Each ratings point represents 931,000 TV homes ...

"South Africa Now," which is seen on 80 PBS stations in the United States and in 12 other countries, is facing serious financial problems in its sixth season on the air, and is the target of a conservative California-based organization, the Committee on Media Integrity, which claims it is biased in favor of the African National Congress and against the South African government ...

Producer Danny Schechter said yesterday the program has enough funds to complete its current schedule of 13 programs, which conclude in January, but is already feeling the pinch ...

"Right now, we need $1,300 for plane tickets to move a crew from Zimbabwe to Angola and we haven't got the money," Schechter said. "We've had to make some cutbacks in recent weeks" ...

SAN was very nearly dropped by KCET in Los Angeles in mid-October over the bias issue. But after protests and an appeal from WNET in New York, the presenting station on PBS for the show, KCET executives agreed to air it for at least six more weeks ...

Yesterday, Schechter said he's learned KCET may extend the run to the end of the current season ...

WGBH in Boston has removed it from the air, claiming it has outlived its usefulness in light of the recent changes in South Africa. "We dispute that contention," the producer said ...

The program got a boost in Boston earlier this week however when it received editorial support from the Boston Globe, according to Schechter ...

In addition, stations in both Madison, Wis., and St. Louis have restored it to their schedules, he said ...

The producer estimated it costs about $500,000 a year to produce the program but it has no corporate underwriters ...

If "South Africa Now" is forced to close down in January, Schechter said he is hopeful that another program being planned by Globalvision, which produces SAN, on human rights efforts around the world, could "fold in" the South African reports in the future. "That could loosen some corporate purse strings," said Schechter. "Right now, corporate givers are leery of the South Africa issue, as you might expect" ...

Ed Jones, general manager of Howard University's WHMM here, said yesterday he has called Schechter and offered his PBS station's facilities as a production site for "South Africa Now." Jones said the program, which airs at 9:30 on Sunday nights on his station (with two reruns during the week) is a "major factor in our fund-raising efforts here in Washington" ...

Schechter said yesterday he plans further talks with Jones. "We'd love to establish a Washington bureau if we could," he said ...

WETA airs the program at 11 p.m. Tuesdays, with a repeat on Friday at 2 p.m. It barely makes the Nielsen ratings, however, averaging only a 0.4 rating (representing about 6,900 of the area's 1.7 million TV homes) and a 1 percent audience share in October. The Tuesday repeats averaged a 0.4/2 last month ...

Schechter said he expects the committee to mount a national campaign against the program in the future "and they've got deeper pockets than we do" ...

"We're not dead yet; the crisis has given us some tremendous expressions of support. WNET has been very supportive. And we recently saw the book of comments at WETA and a lot of them were positive" ...