KABC First at 4 and 5; KNBC Rules at 11 p.m. : Ratings war: KCBS trails rivals in all news times periods. Audience slips for all three network nightly newscasts.

Despite falling out of first place in the local news ratings more than a year ago, KABC Channel 7 has nonetheless continued to dub itself "the Southland's leading news." Now that the results from this month's ratings sweeps are in, such bragging is no longer such a big lie.

According to figures released today by A. C. Nielsen Co., KABC soundly beat KNBC Channel 4, which has been a strong first in news for the past year and a half, at 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. and finished a statistically insignificant close second at 6 p.m.

Its long-time news director Tom Capra having left last January to head up the network's "Today" show, KNBC managed to retain its wide lead at 11 p.m., but even that margin was only half of what it had been a year ago. In fact, Channel 4's ratings for all of its newscasts plunged this month compared to what they were last May. Its 5 p.m. newscast anchored by Jess Marlow and Colleen Williams lost nearly 85,000 households from a year ago, while the 6 p.m. newscast with Kelly Lange and Keith Morrison lost about 65,000 from its total last May.

Channel 4 continued to hold a small lead in all afternoon and evening news time periods as measured by the rival Arbitron ratings service. Ironically, Channel 4 is the only local VHF station that refuses to subscribe to Arbitron because in the past it has doubted the accuracy of the company's reports.

KCBS Channel 2 again trailed its rivals in all news time periods, but, bouyed by an especially strong prime time showing for CBS, the station's 11 p.m. newscast was the only one of the three to actually gain viewers over a year ago. And thanks to Channel 4's precipitous decline at 5 p.m., Channel 2 is practically within striking distance of second place for the first time in five years, despite losing about 14,000 households from last May's total.

The total news audience for the three network-owned stations dwindled again this month as it has for much of the past year; the cumulative audience at the three stations declined in all but one of the afternoon and evening news time periods. The local audience for the three nightly network newscasts was also down approximately 100,000 households from a year ago.

Competition from the four independent stations again sliced into the network-owned station's news audience. Reruns of "Hunter" at 6 p.m. on Channel 5 again dominated the time period, beating local news, national news and sitcoms on Channels 9, 11 and 13. And, as if to prove that younger viewers control the television sets in the afternoon and early evening, "Small Wonder" and "Mr. Belevedere," two of TV's silliest sitcoms, won the 5-6 p.m. time period for KTTV Channel 11, according to Arbitron.

Meanwhile, KCAL Channel 9's three-hour prime-time newscast failed to have much of an impact on the audience during its first ever sweeps--one of four annual ratings periods that help determine advertising rates. Channel 9 finished last for all three hours, managing an average of only 123,000 out of the 4.9 million television households in the Los Angeles market.

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