NBC 5 testing partnership with Merlin’s FM News

Nobody knows where it’s headed, but a news sharing partnership is quietly being tested between Chicago’s NBC-owned television station and Merlin Media’s all-news radio station.

Starting this week, WMAQ-Channel 5 and WIQI-FM (101.1) are taking a few tentative steps toward an arrangement similar to that between two of Chicago’s CBS-owned stations — WBBM-Channel 2 and all-news WBBM-AM (780).

Andy Friedman, program boss of Merlin’s FM News 101.1, told staffers Monday the partnership could entail the use of NBC 5 audio on his station’s newscasts, the appearance of FM News 101.1 personnel on NBC 5 newscasts, and the sharing of assignments and online content between the two stations.

Potentially controversial was the disclosure that FM News 101.1 reporters also may be used to provide on-scene video of events for NBC 5 newscasts. If true, such an arrangement might run afoul of NBC union agreements.

But NBC 5 bosses were quick to downplay the alliance, calling it “very informal” and “more of a test to see if we both can benefit.” Unlike other recent partnerships, including those with The Chicago Reporter and Political Technologies’ eVoter election information site, the station does not plan to make a formal announcement of the deal.

“We’re letting them use some actualities [sound bites] with credit to NBC 5,” said Toni Falvo, vice president of research, programming and press. “If it makes sense, our reporters may talk with their anchors about the stories they are covering.” The two stations' assignment desks also may share tips.

FM News 101.1 has been dead in the water since it debuted last July. Latest Arbitron ratings show the station languishing in 42nd place with a 0.3 percent audience share.

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Laura Baginski, Editor (@TimeOutChicago)