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IN THE SPOTLIGHT

February 08, 1987|HOWARD ROSENBERG

"DONAHUE" IN THE SOVIET UNION--3 p.m. Monday-Friday (4)--The Soviet Union's new policy of glasnost or openness is continuing, and apparently Phil Donahue is one of the benefactors.

Most of this week's batch of "Donahue" segments is the result of 10 days of production in the Soviet Union last month, making New York-based "Donahue" the first American talk show to tape inside that country, according to the show's publicists.

Monday's opening segment focuses on the Soviet family. Tuesday's show is keyed to Soviet teenagers. Wednesday's program, showing Donahue's visit to Chernobyl and other sensitive Soviet sites, may give some indication of how much freedom the talk-show host was allowed by the Kremlin.

Thursday's hour is "spacebridge" dialogue between Soviet and U.S. journalists that was scheduled to be taped this week after Donahue's return from the Soviet Union. The week concludes with a program from Leningrad.

The "Donahue" programs appear to be an extension of a Kremlin policy of tolerance for at least some free expression and greater openness with the West, a policy that has manifested itself in many areas. Donahue already has taken part in two televised spacebridges linking private Soviet and American citizens.

A spokeswoman for the show denied that the week of Soviet programs was part of an anti-"Oprah" strategy during the critical February ratings sweeps month.

Starring Oprah Winfrey, the "Oprah" talk show (3 p.m. weekdays on Channel 7) is the season's new syndication blockbuster and is outdrawing "Donahue" in a number of markets where they air opposite each other.

The Soviet trip was in the works before the start of this season and thus could not have been aimed at hyping "Donahue" ratings against "Oprah," the spokeswoman said.

But it couldn't hurt.

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