Massachusetts Gov. Michael S. Dukakis (D) grinned into the camera. The eyes of Texas were upon him -- of New Hampshire and Iowa, too.

"Through the help of the wonderful world of electronics, we're all here for a historic first," said Dukakis, looking relaxed in front of a potted plant at Texas A&M University, addressing about 2,500 college students watching live by satellite last Friday on 56 campuses around the country.

For the thoroughly modern presidential candidate, getting his message across is often a matter of putting his signal up. This year's White House hopefuls have discovered the "satellite feed" in a big way -- much more than was possible in 1984. The technology has improved with the spread of mobile satellite trucks and the increased availability of transmission frequencies, and now permits aspiring presidents to beam themselves aboard the nation's local newscasts and, as in Dukakis' case, create their own instant TV networks.

The Dukakis campaign paid about $9,000 for the hour-long broadcast, in which the governor's answers to phoned-in questions were "uplinked" from Texas, bounced off the "9 Star 2" and "Westar 4" orbiters, and "downlinked" to satellite dishes in the primary and caucus states. "This kind of event is a great organizing tool," said Dukakis communications director Leslie Dach.

"The technology provides the candidates immediate access to constituents," said sales director Myles Keeney of Capital Satellite Inc., a Raleigh, N.C., firm that has been soliciting the business of presidential campaigns. "It gives them the opportunity of not being dependent on the networks for coverage. They're not at the mercy of the editorial judgments and contortions of news organizations. And this is free to the local stations. They are very receptive to getting this."

The previous weekend, at the Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner in Iowa, Sen. Paul Simon (D-Ill.) used his own satellite feed to be interviewed on live television in Omaha, two stations in Chicago, one in Quincy, Ill., and another in Davenport, Iowa, according to a campaign memo.

"He was 'like live,' that is live on tape, on KETV in Omaha at six and WMBD in Peoria, Ill., at ten," the memo continued. "For about $2,300, PS was 'live' on six or seven news shows and tape was used on countless others. The idea of buying two minutes of advertising on each of those shows . . . would have to exceed $10,000."

Understandably, other candidates have tried to take advantage of this favorable cost-benefit ratio, including Senate Minority Leader Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.), Rep. Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.), former Delaware governor Pierre S. (Pete) du Pont IV (R), former Arizona governor Bruce Babbitt (D), Sen. Albert Gore Jr. (D-Tenn.) and Rep. Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.).

"We're not trying to make the news," said Gephardt satellite coordinator Deborah Johns, who occasionally has fed stations edited versions of campaign events. "We're just offering them what they could get if they had a crew there."

From the stations' point of view, the candidate feed is a mixed bag. The service may be free, and it may give viewers the sense that their local stations are covering the presidential campaign, but it doesn't come without certain journalistic costs.

"Yes, definitely, it's a prestige-enhancer," said assignment editor Tom Moore of KCRG-TV in Cedar Rapids, Iowa -- typical of the small-market stations with limited news budgets that have put candidate feeds on the air. "More importantly, it allows us to cover breaking news."

Yet Moore, who doesn't use such feeds as often as he could, worries about a danger of relinquishing editorial control of the local news.

"If you take one candidate's feed, you kind of have to take them all," Moore said. "If we accept a feed from Simon, it would be very hard to refuse to take Mr. {Marion G. (Pat)} Robertson's feed."

"We use the same philosophy that we would if they were in town," said assistant news director Bob Crawford of WXIA-TV in Atlanta. "That is, we have them on if there is a reason to speak to them, to get their opinion on a certain subject. We don't just use it because it's there."

Some stations, however, simply refuse such feeds.

"We have a policy against using such material," said Phil Balboni, news director of Boston's ABC affiliate, WCVB-TV. "I think it changes the ground rules by which not only campaigning is done but by which news-gathering is done. The candidate who can afford to offer these free interviews to stations increases his or her opportunity to get exposure on television. It's not an editorial judgment, it's an economic decision.

"I feel that we have both the ability and the responsibility to gather our own news. We want to control the circumstances under which this material is shot."

Balboni said that on rare occasions, such material could be used if newsworthy and properly labeled on-screen as "candidate-supplied video."