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Business is booming on TV - well, business programs are

By Arthur Unger / October 23, 1981



New York

The business of business is fast becoming everybody's business . . . at least , on American television. ''Wall Street Week'' (PBS, Fridays, check local listings) attracts more than 10 million viewers weekly. ''Enterprise,'' hosted by Eric Sevareid, has joined the PBS Friday business lineup. And PBS has just added another business show - ''The Nightly Business Report'' (PBS, live via satellite, 6:30-7 p.m. but check local listings since many stations have chosen to air it immediately before or after the ''MacNeil/Lehrer Report'').

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All of the networks are now featuring regular expert business and economics reports on the evening news. And Louis Rukeyser, host of the pathfinding show ''Wall Street Week,'' has just added a second weekly half-hour show, ''Louis Rukeyser's Business Journal,'' which is being syndicated to local stations other than PBS affiliates.

Mr. Rukeyser, who covered financial news for ABC for several years, is one of TV's first business personalities. And he is so busy these days that sometimes his tight schedule makes him appear to be elusive. He lives in Greenwich, Conn., commutes to Baltimore, to tape ''Wall Street Week,'' travels all around the country to give more than 100 lectures a year, writes a three-times-a-week newspaper column in between writing several books, and now has added ''Business Journal.''

A limousine was dispatched to Greenwich on the Saturday before the premiere show to pick up Mr. Rukeyser and bring him to the New York studio. After the taping run-through, he was to be chauffeured back to Greenwich. I joined him on the trip into New York to have an hour-and-a-half for an uninterrupted interview. I was assured that there was no telephone in the limousine - this was the only way I could be certain of getting the busy Mr. Rukeyser at all. He appeared, appropriately dressed in a gray business suit, his hair just puffy enough around the ears to make him look, again appropriately, like the portrait of George Washington which appears on the $1 bill.

How will the new Rukeyser show compare with the old ''Wall Street Week?''

''It will be quite different. To begin with, its area of coverage will be the entire world of business, without any specific emphasis on investing. Beyond that, it's going to be have production values lacking in 'Wall Street Week.' It will have pieces taped in the field, covering important and/or fascinating developments in the world of business. It will pay attention to the ongoing business of business, how it really works, who the players are, what decisions they're faced with. It will have interviews with prominent personalities, debates on controversial issues, a personal finance section, and a few comments from Lou.'' (The first two programs, already aired, featured interviews with the presidents of Grumman and Pan American).

Is ''Louis Rukeyser's Business Journal'' aimed at the average person interested in his own finances or the kind of person who reads the Wall Street Journal every day?

''If we got all the readers of all the business publications in the country - that wouldn't be enough. 'Wall Street Week,' for example, gets more than twice the number of readers of the Wall Street Journal. And that's the biggest of the publications. We want a much broader audience. To be sure, we will be watched by business people, by the more affluent - but I will be highly disappointed if we don't get a substantial audience of younger people and blue-collar people.''

Might Rukeyser find himself competing with himself?