CBS News, in the midst of a staff reduction that could cost up to 50 jobs before the end of the year, confirmed on Friday that it is closing its Chicago bureau ...

Five persons will be laid off and 10 from the bureau's technical staff will be reassigned to CBS-owned WBBM. The transfer of those technicians could result in further layoffs if union seniority rules are invoked ...

Chicago bureau correspondent Frank Currier and producer Terry Wood will continue, working either out of their homes or from WBBM ...

With the closing of the bureau, CBS News in New York will rely on feeds from the Chicago and other Midwest offices of its "Newsnet" affiliate feed, as well as on WBBM, for coverage of the region ...

CBS News is also closing a two-person satellite bureau in Denver. Correspondent Bob McNamara will continue reporting from the Mile High City but a producer will be laid off ...

ABC News announced yesterday that Madonna -- and unedited excerpts of her controversial new video, "Justify My Love" -- will appear with Forrest Sawyer on tonight's "Nightline," following the 49ers-Giants NFL game sometime after midnight -- when the kiddies are presumably all visiting Mr. Sandman ...

Madonna's first TV interview in six months will include her much-anticipated views on "freedom of expression for artists." Her latest video was deemed too hot for MTV ...

ABC lawyers cleared some of the racier parts of "Justify" on two counts -- it would be on the air very late and the excerpts had news value because they were germane to the subject matter to be discussed. "It's the focus of the broadcast," said spokesperson Laura Wessner ...

Cissy Baker, vice president and managing editor of Cable News Network in Atlanta, has resigned and is reportedly joining former Fox Broadcasting executive Garth Ancier, who now works for NBC ...

Baker, the daughter of former senator Howard Baker, has been at CNN for 10 years. Steve Cassidy has been named acting managing editor, according to a CNN spokesperson ...

ABC's "Good Morning America" won the morning ratingzzz race during Thanksgiving week with a 4.5 national Nielsen rating and a 20 percent audience share, compared with a 3.4/16 for NBC's "Today" and a 2.4/12 for "CBS This Morning." Each ratings point represents 931,000 TV homes.

Another signal from Iraq? ABC News yesterday was claiming the first live video report by an American network out of Baghdad since the Persian Gulf crisis began in early August ...

London-based correspondent Sheila MacVicar chatted up David Brinkley via satellite on reactions to Bush's recent diplomatic overtures at the top of yesterday's "This Week With David Brinkley" ...

A censor was present in the Iraqi TV studio where the broadcast originated, but no plugs were pulled. (ABC anchor Peter Jennings's recent interview with Saddam really intrigued various key members of the administration, by the way) ...

Is Channel 5's public affairs show, "Off the Record," in trouble? Station manager Tom Herwitz says no but Bob Beckel, the moderator of the show and a Democratic political consultant, tried to stir up interest in the possibility on Friday when he dispatched a letter to John McLaughlin, the moderator of "The McLaughlin Group" (among others), accusing John of "disparaging our show ... and beyond that spreading rumors about its future which are just not true" ...

Would you be very surprised to learn that copies of Bob's not-quite tongue-in-cheek "Dear John" letter found their way to reporters before Friday was barely half old? ...

Beckel asked McLaughlin: "Now why would the guy with the big show be picking on us poor rookies? Surely not because you're mean or insecure" ...

McLaughlin, who was busy taping Friday afternoon, issued a brief statement -- "Bob Beckel is a friend of mine but I must tell you honestly, I have never seen his show" -- that failed to address Beckel's accusations ...

Beckel later told a reporter that he had heard the rumors of McLaughlin's alleged "campaign" most recently on Thursday night "and that was the fourth time I had heard it. He's either got bad information or he's trying to screw us" ...

Beckel noted that Five is planning a 9:30 primetime special on a Saturday before the year is out devoted to an "Off the Record" favorite -- picking the stars and goats of the year, and is booking the show's regulars for conventions right into the spring. "I think we're catching on" ...

Herwitz on Friday said he wasn't too pleased with Beckel's memo but that "we have no plans to cancel the show" ...

Let's cut to the chase: During the just-ended November sweeps, "Off the Record" averaged a 1.2/4 on Sunday mornings at 9 ...

That compares with an 8.5/16 average for "The McLaughlin Group" at 7:30 p.m. Saturdays on WRC and an 8.8/16 for the venerable "Inside Washington" on WUSA at 7 p.m. Saturdays ...

"Inside" is number one in its timeslot during November; "Group" is second, behind WTTG's "Who's the Boss?" at 7:30 ...

Hey, NBC won Thursday night and Mr. Cosby creamed a "Simpsons" rerun on Fox, 18.1/28 to 11.8/18, at 8 p.m.!!! ...

Local Ratingzzzz

Channel 4, which has owned the 11 o'clock news for 13 straight ratings books, staked out a strong claim for news leadership across the board in the important November sweeps ...

Viewership was down from a year ago, in small part because there was some snow on the ground for a while in November 1989, keeping folks close to the TV set ...

Channel 9, which once owned local news in this market, continues to come back to the pack. In November, only its 5 to 6 p.m. news finished ahead of Four and that by a mere tenth of a ratings point (i.e., a statistical toss-up margin of 1,750 TV homes) ...

Looked at another way: WRC news shows from 5 to 7 on weeknights averaged a 9.2/19 (down barely from a 9.3/18 a year ago in November), compared with a 7.4/16 for WUSA's news between 4 and 7 (off from an 8.6/20) and a 6.9/14 for WJLA between 5 and 6:30 (also down, from a 7.6/16) ...

The good news for Channel 7 -- whose news department has been trying to get it together after an unsettling midsummer change in management, the firing of at least a dozen and a reassignment of anchors -- is that it didn't drop right off the edge, losing very little ground at 11 and even improving slightly at 5 ...

Channel 5's early "Fox Morning News" isn't setting any records, but its presence has apparently cut seriously into audiences for network shows in that 7 to 9 a.m. time period ... and of course Five's 10 o'clock news at night remains competitive with Four's best at 11 ...

Independent Channel 20 continues to show signs of improvement in several key time periods ...

Keeping in mind that this year each Nielsen point represents 17,491 TV households (and with November 1989 ratings in parentheses):

From 7 to 9 a.m., Mondays through Fridays: ABC's "Good Morning America" on WJLA is first at 4.4/21 (5.0/20), followed by a tie between NBC's "Today" on WRC and "CBS This Morning" on WUSA at 2.2/10 (the two were tied at 4.0/16 a year ago) and "Fox Morning News" on WTTG at 1.9/9 ...

At 4 p.m. M-F, Oprah Winfrey on WJLA is tops at 8.9/25 (9.1/25), followed by WUSA's hour of news at 5.1/14 (unchanged), WRC's tabloid shows 4.7/13 (4.8/13), WTTG's cartoons 4.0/11 (5.8/17) and WDCA's cartoons 3.8/11 (2.9/8) ...

From 5 to 6 p.m. M-F: WUSA news is first by that previously mentioned whisker at 8.1/18 (down from 9.4/22 a year ago), compared with an 8.0/18 (7.7/17) for WRC, a 7.0/16 for WJLA's new half-hour 5:30 news (6.7/16) and a 6.8/14 from 5:30 to 6 (vs. a 7.9/16 for WJLA's 5:30 to 6:30 news a year ago), WTTG's sitcoms at 6.0/14 (8.1/18) and WDCA's 4.6/10 (up from 1.7/4 in November '89) ...

From 6 to 7 p.m. M-F: WTTG's hour of "Who's the Boss?" leads with a 10.7/20 (9.0/17), followed by WRC's hour of news at 10.3/19 (10.7/19), WUSA's hour news at 9.0/17 (11.6/23), WJLA's 6 to 6:30 news at 6.8/13, and WDCA's 2.9/6 for "ALF" and "Mama's Family" (3.0/6) ...

In the network news race, M-F: "ABC World News Tonight" on WJLA at 6:30, is tops at 9.7/17 (9.8/17), followed by "NBC Nightly News" on WRC at 7 with 9.3/16 (down from 10.4/18) and "CBS Evening News" on WUSA at 7 with 9.1/16 (off from a 10.5/18 at 6:30 a year ago) ...

Also at 7, "The Cosby Show" on WTTG averaged a 12.6/22 (13.6/23), "Wheel of Fortune" on WJLA a 9.6/17 (9.9/17 for "Jeopardy!"), and "Night Court" and "Cheers" on WDCA, a 5.0/8 (4.6/8) ...

In the 11 p.m. news race, M-F: WRC is first with a 9.7/22 (down from 11.1/24), followed by WUSA at 8.0/18 (off from a 9.5/21), WJLA at 6.3/15 (Tuesday-Friday) (virtually unchanged from a 6.4/14) ...

Channel 5's 10 o'clock news averaged a 9.0/16 (8/13) ...