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Ride the TV Train

WSB Atlanta is hitting the rails. Come spring, the station’s newscasts will be seen by passengers on area commuter trains and subways via The Rail Network, a company that wires mass-transit systems to receive live audio and video.

Atlanta is the system’s inaugural market. TRN is installing five flat-screen TVs in each Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) train car and will stream in live content through wireless technology. The system has six audio channels, English- and Spanish-language channels for the video, and three music channels.

To hear, passengers can tune in with FM radios. The bottom third of the screens will be closed- captions. The service will be free. To hype it, TRN plans to give out more than 200,000 FM radios.

The company’s CEO, David Lane, dreamed up the idea while commuting on the N-line subway in New York. “Passengers want to see local, relevant content,” he says.

For WSB, train TV is one more way to reach viewers. “There is an unserved audience riding the trains,” says Director of Creative Services Steve Riley. “This is an extension of our brand and our newscasts.” The station provides its news for free in exchange for exposure and promo time.

MARTA gets a free ride, too. TRN picks up the tab—it won’t disclose costs—for wiring and maintaining the system. It will make money selling ad time and plans to share some ad revenue with the transit authority. So far, Chevrolet, Cadillac, Metro PCS and American InterContinental University have signed up.

On weekends, TRN will pipe in entertainment and music programming, possibly from local radio stations or satellite radio. Those plans are still in the works.

Other cities may hop on board soon. Lane says he has pitched every major transit authority in North America. So far, the Washington, D.C., and Vancouver, B.C, systems are exploring options.

Sweeps Stunts Turn Ugly

There is no naked anchor, but February still featured noteworthy local sweeps stunts. WAVE Louisville, Ky., got national attention after reporter Eric Flack and his cameraman were assaulted by officials at marketing firm Louisville Pro during an interview. Company founder Eli Ohayon and two other reps allegedly assaulted Flack and his cameraman, who caught the altercation on tape. Ohayon is now facing criminal charges; the company skipped town. WAVE, the market’s second-place news station, aired the fight as part of Flack’s report. Flack even turned up on NBC’s Today, CNN’s American Morning and MSNBC to discuss the incident.

Stun Guns

In Columbus, Ohio, and St. Louis, the reporters’ pain was self- inflicted. WCMH Columbus reporter Teresa Garcia and KMOV St. Louis reporter Larry Conners were both “tasered”—shocked with high-voltage stun guns—for stories on the controversial weapons. More than 80 people have died from tasers, per Amnesty International, yet most states allow sales to the public.

In the WCMH report, Garcia and News Director Stan Sanders were zapped, then roiled in pain. “We wanted to tell this story from firsthand experience,” says Sanders. KMOV management agreed after Conners arranged for medical workers to be on-hand. He was not injured, but the pain was temporarily paralyzing. “It felt as if a bull were goring me over and over,” Conners said in an online account.

WTKR Auditions

Preferring a more feel-good sweeps promotion, CBS affiliate WTKR Norfolk-Hampton Roads, Va., is pitching its search for a new traffic reporter on-air. The station solicited tapes through mid February from hundreds of TV wannabes and held auditions at the town center.