Now Here's the News

Saturday night's telecast on ABC of Part V of "North and South" averaged a 20.7 rating and a 34 percent audience share, according to overnight ratings in 12 major Nielsen markets . . .

National Nielsen ratings for the previous four telecasts in the mini-series, through Thursday night ("North and South," wisely, took a break on Friday against "Dallas"), averaged a 25.8/38 . . .

The Thursday night rating for the ABC show (coincidentally, a 25.8/38) enabled that network to squeeze out a rare Thursday win over NBC and The Cosby Crew, but by only one-tenth of a rating point for the full three hours of prime time . . .

On Wednesday, Part III of the mini-series averaged a 28.0/42 in the national Nielsens, its best performance yet . . .

Channel 7 has announced plans to open two regional news bureaus that should be ready for operation shortly after the first of the year . . .

Exact locations have yet to be picked but one will be located in Northern Virginia and the other probably in Prince George's County . . .

Del Walters, a general assignment reporter and a resident of Northern Virginia, will head the Virginia bureau. General assignment reporter David R. Paulson, who joined WJLA last year from WJZ in Baltimore, where he headed the investigative unit, will be in charge of the Maryland bureau . . .

Establishment of the bureaus, which will be linked to the Connecticut Avenue studios of WJLA by microwave, is a costly proposition. Aside from the live transmitting capabilities, each will have videotape editing facilities and on-air sets, with full-time crews assigned, altogether representing an investment of several hundreds of thousands of dollars . . .

In an announcement to the staff Friday, news director Tom Doerr noted that "ours is an unusually large news region, divided by geography and plagued with traffic problems. By establishing regional reporting facilities, not only do we get a better feel for news in our area, but we'll have quicker coverage of breaking stories" . . . Speaking of Bureaus

ABC News announced Friday that its office in Manila is to be upgraded to a full bureau. Correspondent Mark Litke and producer Bill Thomas from the Hong Kong bureau have been assigned to the Philippines post . . .

And in other news from ABC News, the staff of the "Closeup" documentary unit was told yesterday that 12 of its current staff of 36 are due to be cut before the end of the year . . .

Last week, "Closeup" executive producer Pam Hill had confirmed that "several people" would be losing jobs -- part of another budget-cutting effort at ABC News -- but said the cuts would not "materially affect the unit's ability to produce" the six hours of documentaries planned for next year . . .

Yesterday, with firm figures in hand, Hill said the cuts would be confined to "junior" staff members -- production assistants, receptionists and secretaries, for the most part . . .

Sources close to the program insist that ABC News/Sports President Roone Arledge is still committed to documentaries over the long haul . . .

A "Closeup" spokesman yesterday also confirmed that the unit's chief correspondent, Marshall Frady, has been replaced by "20/20" anchor Hugh Downs as anchor of an upcoming (in late December) three-hour "Closeup" documentary he helped write on "Growing Old in America" . . .

The spokesman said that Frady will remain with ABC News in another assignment . . .

Officially, the word is that Downs was selected because he is working on a doctorate in gerontology . . .

But one source suggested that his selection was part of a new contract package recently signed by Downs . . .

Among the other budget-cutting casualties at ABC is Howard Cosell's "Sportsbeat" weekend program effective with the Sunday, Dec. 15, telecast . . .

The sports news program, with the help of producer Peter Bonventre, has won its share of prizes over the past several years. But audiences have almost disappeared (one recent Sunday it averaged slightly above a 1 rating nationally) and fewer than half of ABC's 211 affiliates have carried it in recent weeks . . .

Budget considerations aside, its departure was not unexpected. Cosell's recent book "I Never Played the Game," written with Bonventre, trashed a lot of ABC Sports figures, including Arledge . . .

Here's a tough one, nostalgia fans: the night of Sunday, Dec. 1, NBC will air "Perry Mason Returns," a two-hour movie featuring Raymond Burr, who'll lumber off the bench to defend his former secretary, Della Street (Barbara Hale), against a murder rap . . .

Perry will be up against a three-hour special, "American Bandstand's 33 1/3 Anniversary" . . . In Other News

"Smithsonian World" executive producer Martin Carr, who helped create the Emmy Award-winning series, has left Channel 26 . . .

The parting was apparently amicable, with Carr reportedly negotiating on several new projects in New York . . .

The January and March editions of "Smithsonian World" have been completed, wrapping up this year's production. No replacement for Carr has been named . . .

CBS/Broadcast Group announced Friday that Gene Mater, currently vice president, administration and policy, CBS Broadcast International, has elected to take early retirement . . .

In a memo circulated Friday, CBS Broadcast Group President Gene F. Jankowski said that "in a distinguished 15-year career with CBG, Gene played a central role in the formulation of policies and in the handling of sensitive issues that covered the entire range of our operations. Through much of that time he worked with me on a day-to-day basis. His advice and counsel were always of the highest order" . . .

Mater was point man for the network several years ago when the television industry was under attack by the Rev. Donald Wildmon, a Mississippi evangelist who sought an advertising and viewer boycott of the industry because of sex and violence on the tube . . .

The season premiere of "Saturday Night Live" on NBC Saturday night averaged a 12 rating and a 32 percent audience share in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles . . .

Last year's premiere averaged only a 7.6/21 in those big markets . . . And Finally

It will be a Channel 9 "family" occasion on Saturday, Nov. 30, when Sandra Butler, manager of broadcast operations at WDVM, is married to the Rev. Edward Jones . . .

Rev. Jones was programming director at Channel 9 for several years before resigning to complete studies for the ministry. He is now affiliated with the Round Oak Missionary Baptist Church in Silver Spring . . .