WMAQ Ties Up Traffic (Cams)

With the help of a cell phone, NBC-owned WMAQ-TV Chicago has outbid the CBS and ABC stations there for access to traffic cameras on the Illinois Tollway.

WMAQ won in part because of an existing relationship it has with Mobility Technologies to deliver news alerts to cell phones. Mobility also has a partnership with the Tollway in which it places sensors on the road, collects the data and provides it free to the Tollway and for a fee to stations.

No money changed hands in the deal between station and public toll road, but in exchange for exclusive, two-year access to 120 cameras for traffic updates on-air, on its Web site, or in e-mail alerts to computers, cell phones and PDA's, the station agrees to promote the Tollway's I-Pass and other services via the station, co-owned Pax and Telemundo outlets there. That includes branding the traffic alerts, promoting the Tollway through its sponsorship of the Chicago Auto Show, and other sponsorships.

The station will have live, real-time access to the cameras, though the Tollway can cut off that access in cases of sensitive material.

"We decided that NBC had the best fit based on enthusiasm during the proposal process, local reach and the partnership they have with Mobility Techonologies that allows them to send e-mail alerts," said Tollway spokeswoman Joelle McGinnis.

The state-run Tollway is actually 274 miles of tollways in 12 counties.

Does the state have any problem with selling exclusive access to the cameras, which can important  information, including tie-ups, accidents, or car fires, to a single news outlet. McGinnis says no. Information on traffic and tie-ups is available to anyone on their Web site.

Besides it could use the revenue from boosted I-Pass sales since it operates entirely on the revenue from tolls rather than any allocation of highway funds.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.