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But will they object to “mired in third place”?

General Electric, citing cash flow and pre-tax income up “dramatically” from the previous year, issued a statement Tuesday in which it “respectfully asked journalists” to stop using the terms “beleaguered” and “embattled” as adjectives to describe NBC.

G.E. said the network will have cash flow of close to $ 300 million and pretax income nearing $ 350 million for 1993. It also pointed out that the network is currently second among adults 18-49, the audience most desired by advertisers. (NBC has actually been first or second by that standard the last nine weeks, helped in part by its big “Cheers” finale and NBA basketball.)

NBC slid from six years as the top-rated network into third place last season , which, along with such high-profile setbacks as the departure of David Letterman and the “Dateline NBC” flap, prompted a good deal of negative press. In the statement, G.E. said it believed terms like “beleaguered””might actually be programmed into journalists’ computers.”

CBS, now the top-rated network in households, used to voice similar complaints when it was in the cellar, quipping that reporters had turned “mired in third place” into one word. When the network made its unprecedented third-to-first turnaround in 1991-92, the web sent out “CBS: Miredinfirstplace?” T-shirts.

G.E. issued the unusual statement following reports that entertainer Bill Cosby is looking at making a second bid for the network. G.E. doesn’t break out NBC financial results into separate figures for the network and the NBC TV station group.