Financier Joseph L. Allbritton, whose Allbritton Communications owns five TV stations, including WJLA here, has formed a new company that is scheduled to provide a 24-hour local news cable channel to the Washington area by late May or early June of 1991 ...

ALLNEWSCO, which is independent of Allbritton Communications, has already signed up five of the area's eight major cable systems ...

According to John D. Hillis, general manager of ALLNEWSCO, Media General in Fairfax County; Hauser Communications' systems in Arlington and Montgomery County; and the two systems in Prince George's County, MetroVision and MultiVision, are already on board ...

Hillis said he expects that systems in Reston, Alexandria and the District will also be on line by the time the cable channel debuts late in the second quarter of 1991. ALLNEWSCO, incidentally, is the working title of the upcoming cable news operation...

Hillis estimates that the systems signed up already represent nearly 500,000 of the 625,000 cable subscribers in the area ...

He said that about "200 people, maybe less," will be hired for the cable news operation but stressed that except for some top management positions, recruiting will not begin for news and technical personnel for another "three or four months" ...

Yesterday, Hillis and Channel 7 management emphasized that there will be no connection between news operations in the two organizations, to the point that WJLA will not even use materials prepared by the cable system ...

The Allbritton move has been in the works for almost two years, and "full time for the past year and a half," according to Hillis. He is credited with setting up the nation's first "CNN-type" 24-hour local news cable operation, called Channel 12, on Long Island, N.Y., in 1986. Channel 12 competes successfully with the network-owned stations in New York City ...

Industry sources pointed out yesterday that giant Tele-Communications Inc., based in Denver, has had its eye on the Washington market for a similar operation for some time and viewed the Allbritton move as a shrewd preemptive strike ...

TCI, the biggest cable operation in the United States, with an estimated 8.5 million subscribers, already operates a 24-hour cable news station in the Chicago area ...

Hillis said ALLNEWSCO is currently considering seven or eight studio sites in Virginia but that no decision has been reached. No major hiring effort will be made until after selection and preparation of the facility is completed ...

"There is an enormous 'niche market' on the county level waiting to be served," Hillis said yesterday. "We hope to combine the best of the local daily and weekly newspapers and radio with the immediacy of TV" ...

Once the operation is set up, Hillis said, "we will be able to do actual 'zoning programming,' providing separate, discrete feeds to Virginia, Maryland and District audiences in high-audience times of the day" ...

Hillis declined to be specific about how much Allbritton Communications has invested in the cable operation except to say that it involves "several millions of dollars" ...

Mike Moore, president of Channel 7, said ALLNEWSCO "won't be affecting us here at WJLA. The companies have different missions -- narrowcasting versus broadcasting -- with different management, technical and on-air staffs" ...

Channel 7 in recent months has endured some highly publicized reorganization and downsizing -- affecting more than two dozen people -- as a result of the slump in advertising revenues in the Washington market ...

Moore called the ALLNEWSCO project a "strategic thrust that somebody was going to make in this market, and it indicates that Allbritton Communications is going to compete" ...

Now This

Good news, Leland! You too, Bob. ABC Entertainment has picked up "Twin Peaks" for the remainder of the season. No details but we suspect that adds up to 22 episodes ...

ABC also said yesterday that "Equal Justice" will return on Jan. 9 as the replacement for "Cop Rock," which is going bye-bye after its Dec. 26 broadcast ...

In a summer tryout in the same 10 p.m. Wednesday timeslot, "Equal" averaged a 10.2/19 in 13 airings ...

The Monday Night Football game on ABC twixt the Redskins and the Eagles averaged a 15.8 national Nielsen rating and a 27 percent audience share between 9 p.m. and 12:09 a.m. Tuesday ...

On Channel 7, the game did a 33.1/53 -- and even delivered a 14.0/55 for WJLA's postgame local news...

The 'Skins also provided number-one-at-11 WRC with an excuse to call Monday's 11 p.m. news a "special," which means it didn't count in the November ratings sweeps' news count for the night ...

Some 20 minutes of Four's half-hour "special," called "Desert Shield," was devoted to a report taped by reporter Peter Ford in Saudi Arabia last weekend. Because of the game, Four, usually in double digits at 11, averaged a 5.0/9, while Nine's news did a 4.8/8 ...

Each local ratings point represents 17,491 TV homes ...

Jane Pauley, who is set to anchor a half-hour weekly version of her successful "Real Life With Jane Pauley" magazine specials for NBC starting early next year, has a new contract. And a new hairdo ...

The five-year pact is reportedly worth, when one adds up all the perks, a very wholesome $10 million, or $2 million a year. After her appearance Monday on "NBC Nightly News," a producer from a rival network called to complain yesterday that America's sweetheart "looks like a country-western singer." It goes without saying that the producer was promptly chopped from Captain Airwaves' Christmas card list. (Meow) ...

Peter Jennings has dashed over to the Middle East hoping to line up an interview with Iraq's Saddam Hussein before rivals arrive in the area with President Bush next week ...

ABC News won't confirm, saying only that P.J.'s "overseas" ...

Meanwhile, "CBS Evening News" anchor Dan Rather is leaving this weekend, but going straight to Saudi Arabia, whence he will broadcast through Thanksgiving. Unlike P.J. and NBC's Tom Brokaw, he won't be going to Paris on Monday and Tuesday; he'll leave those chores to White House correspondent Wyatt Andrews, who will be traveling with the president ...

Providing a natural segue into our report that "ABC World News Tonight" was first again last week in the network race, with an 11.6/21, compared with a 10.1/18 for CBS and a 9.7/18 for "NBC Nightly News" ...

The conclusion of NBC's "The Big One" averaged a 19.5/30 on Monday night ...

A group of angry Detroit citizens asked to meet with ABC News president Roone Arledge in New York today to express their displeasure with correspondent Judd Rose's 16-minute report on their city during last Thursday's "PrimeTime Live" ...

The broadcast, dealing with Motown's poverty, crime rate, drugs and the white flight to the suburbs, sparked hundreds of protesting phone calls to the network...

ABC issued a statement late yesterday saying management would be "happy to meet" with Detroit civic, business and religious leaders as soon as an appropriate time can be arranged" ...

TV RATINGZZZZ

Following are the top 20 network prime-time shows last week, ranked according to the percentage of the nation's 92.1 milllion TV households that watched, as measured by the A.C. Nielsen Co. A share represents the percentage of actual sets-in-use tuned to a particular program when it aired.

RANK...RATING.....PROGRAM........................SHARE..NETWORK

1......29.5.......Cheers............................44......NBC

2......21.1.......60 Minutes........................34......CBS

3......20.0.......A Different World.................30......NBC

4......18.9.......Designing Women...................28......CBS

.......18.9.......Murphy Brown......................28......CBS

6......18.6.......Empty Nest........................33......ABC

7......18.5.......America's Funniest Home Videos....28......ABC

.......18.5.......Roseanne..........................27......ABC

9......18.4.......Murder, She Wrote.................27......CBS

10.....18.2.......Unsolved Mysteries................29......NBC

11.....18.1.......The Golden Girls..................32......NBC

12.....18.0.......America's Funniest People.........27......ABC

13.....17.9.......The Cosby Show....................27......NBC

14.....17.4.......L.A. Law..........................30......NBC

15.....17.1.......The Big One, Part I...............26......NBC

16.....16.7.......Full House........................29......ABC

17.....16.3.......Family Matters....................28......ABC

18.....15.9.......NFL Giants vs. Colts..............27......ABC

.......15.9.......Call Me Anna......................24......ABC

20.....15.8.......Major Dad.........................24......CBS

NBC won the week with a 13.7 rating and a 22 share, compared with a 12.8/21 for ABC,a 12.0/20 for CBS and a 5.9/10 for FOX ...

After 12 days of the Arbitron and 11 days of the Nielsen November ratings sweeps, NBC has a comfortable lead over CBS, with ABC close behind. FOX, with considerably fewer affiliates, is fourth ...

Once again, the new fall series fared poorly, with only ABC's copycat "America's Funniest People" (12th) in the Top 30 ...

The episode revealing Laura Palmer's killer on "Twin Peaks" moved that ABC series up to a tie for 51st -- and the previously noted pickup for a full season ...

Series from affiliate-poor FOX filled the last eight spots on the list of 93 programs that aired the week ending Nov. 11. ABC's just-canceled "Cop Rock" was 85th, making it the lowest-rated of all big network shows. FOX's "The Simpsons" finished 25th ...