This article is about the NBC owned-and-operated television station in Chicago. For broadcast stations that previously used the WMAQ call sign, see WMAQ (disambiguation).
Chicago, Illinois
United States
  • NBC 5 Chicago (general)
  • NBC 5 (secondary)
  • NBC 5 News (newscasts)
Slogan We Are Chicago
Channels Digital: 29 (UHF)
Virtual: 5 (PSIP)
Owner NBCUniversal
(NBC Telemundo License LLC)
First air date October 8, 1948 (1948-10-08)
Call letters' meaning
  • We Must Answer Questions
  • (Derived from former sister station WMAQ radio (now WSCR))
Sister station(s)
Former callsigns WNBQ (1948–1964)
Former channel number(s)
  • Analog:
  • 5 (VHF, 1948–2009)
Former affiliations
Transmitter power 350 kW
Height 508 m (1,667 ft)
Facility ID 47905
Transmitter coordinates 41°52′44″N 87°38′10″W / 41.87889°N 87.63611°W / 41.87889; -87.63611Coordinates: 41°52′44″N 87°38′10″W / 41.87889°N 87.63611°W / 41.87889; -87.63611
Licensing authority FCC
Public license information: Profile
Website www.nbcchicago.com

WMAQ-TV, virtual channel 5 (UHF digital channel 29), is an NBC owned-and-operated television station located in Chicago, Illinois, United States. The station is owned by NBCUniversal Owned Television Stations subsidiary of NBCUniversal, and is part of a duopoly with Telemundo station WSNS-TV (channel 44); Both networks are owned by NBCUniversal, a subsidiary of Comcast, which it is also co-owned with regional sports network Comcast SportsNet Chicago. WMAQ-TV maintains studio facilities and business offices at the NBC Tower on North Columbus Drive in the city's Streeterville neighborhood, and its transmitter is located atop the Willis Tower on South Wacker Drive in the Chicago Loop.

In the few areas of the eastern United States where an NBC station is not receivable over-the-air, WMAQ-TV is available on satellite via DirecTV and Dish Network. It is also carried on Comcast Xfinity, RCN, WOW and AT&T U-Verse channel 5, with an high definition feed on Comcast Xfinity digital channel 188, RCN digital channel 605, WOW digital channel 203 and AT&T U-Verse digital channel 1005 and on certain cable providers in markets where an NBC affiliate is not available.


For the pre-1948 history of the station, see WMAQ (AM).

The station first signed on the air on October 8, 1948, under the call letters WNBQ. It was the fourth television station to sign on in the Chicago market (after WENR-TV (channel 7, now WLS-TV), which signed on three weeks earlier on September 17; WGN-TV (channel 9), which debuted six months earlier in April; WBKB (channel 4, now WBBM-TV on channel 2), which debuted in September 1946), and was the last of the city's four commercial VHF stations to launch.[1] It was also the third of NBC's five original owned-and-operated television stations to begin operations, after WNBT (now WNBC) in New York City (which signed on as a full-time commercial station in July 1941) and WNBW (now WRC-TV) in Washington, D.C. (which signed on in June 1947); WNBK (now WKYC) in Cleveland and KNBH (now KNBC) in Los Angeles did not sign on until October 31, 1948 and January 16, 1949, respectively. The station initially broadcast a minimum of two hours of programming per day.

Station camera in 1951. Singer-actress Connie Russell from Garroway at Large and her daughter are pictured.

Prior to the station's sign-on, the station originally was going to designate WNBY as its call letters; however at NBC's request, the Federal Communications Commission approved an application filed by the network to change the station's calls to WNBQ, a move that was announced on March 3, 1948. NBC officials cited the need to avoid possible confusion with WMAQ-AM-FM competitor WMBI (1110 AM) and to obtain a callsign that was closer to co-owned NBC Red Network radio station WMAQ (670 AM, frequency now occupied by WSCR; and 101.1 FM, now WKQX) as the reasoning for the change.[2] The station's first mid-week broadcast came the month following its sign-on, when Paul Winchell and Joseph Dunninger were featured on the NBC variety series, the Floor Show. The half-hour program was recorded via kinescope, and rebroadcast on WNBQ at 8:30 p.m. on Thursdays.[3]

WMAQ-TV originated several programs for the NBC television network from its original studio facilities – a 170,000-square-foot (16,000 m2) studio on the 19th floor of the Merchandise Mart on the city's Near North Side – during the 1950s, including Kukla, Fran, and Ollie, featuring Burr Tillstrom and Fran Allison; Garroway at Large, starring Dave Garroway; and "Studs' Place," hosted by Studs Terkel. Television critics referred to the broadcasts – often low-budget with few celebrity guests but a good deal of inventiveness – as examples of the "Chicago School of Television."[4][5]

The station installed equipment to produce and transmit its programming in color in late 1953; WNBQ's first notable color telecast occurred in January 1954, when the station broadcast NBC's telecast of the Rose Bowl parade in the format. Channel 5 aired its first local program to be broadcast in color, when John Ott's "How Does Your Garden Grow?" debuted in March 1955, which utilized time-lapse color film. On April 15, 1956, WNBQ became the first television station in the world to broadcast all of its programming in color, an event described by Broadcasting-Telecasting as "a daring breakthrough the black-and-white curtain", completing a project that cost more than $1.25 million to make the upgrades; the first color telecast from the station on that date was Wide, Wide World, which was transmitted to 110 NBC stations across the country.

WMAQ-TV logo, used from 1992 to 1995.

Although NBC had long owned the WMAQ radio stations, the television station continued to maintain call letters separate from that used by its co-owned radio outlets; this changed on August 31, 1964, when the network changed the station's calls to WMAQ-TV.[6][7] The calls of its sister radio station were initially assigned by the government, but went on to form the phrase "We Must Ask Questions," which the radio station took on as its motto in the 1920s. Although the station's role as a program provider to NBC diminished in the 1960s, WMAQ-TV gathered and distributed more than 200 feeds of news footage per month from overseas and the central United States to NBC News.[8]

On December 3, 1985, NBC signed a $100 million+ agreement to lease office space in a three-story annex to the north of a planned 34-story, 1,000,000-square-foot (93,000 m2) skyscraper – a project developed by the Equitable Life Asssurance Society and Tishman-Speyer Properties – that would be constructed as part of the Cityfront Center development on the northwest corner of Columbus Drive and North Water Street, in which WMAQ-TV's operations would occupy 251,000 sq ft (23,300 m2) of the building; under the plans for the project, NBC was given the option of acquiring an approximately 25% interest in the building. On October 1, 1989, the station officially relocated its operations from the Merchandise Mart after 40 years and began broadcasting from the NBC Tower, located on 455 North Columbus Drive (the 19th floor of the Mart, six blocks west of the NBC Tower, has since been converted into office space).[9][10] Ratings for WMAQ-TV's newscasts overtook those of WBBM-TV in the 1980s, but the station could not dethrone market leader WLS-TV during the period.

In 1987, WMAQ-TV became the first station in the Chicago metropolitan area to adopt its real-time closed captioning for the hearing impaired in all of its newscasts; 7 years later in 1994, the closed captioning service was later added to the station's morning newscast.

In 1995, WMAQ-TV changed its on-air branding from "Channel 5" to "NBC 5 Chicago"; additionally, became the first station in Chicago to launched its website, which provided news reports and information on the station's community initiatives and on-air staff members; the station expanded its Internet offerings in 2000, when they branded it as "Peacock Club". For most of its years, The station did include the network's logo next to theirs, branding solely with the channel number and/or call letters vocally and visually (outside of network-created radio promos which listed the station as "NBC Channel 5" or "NBC Channel 5 Chicago") until 1995. The station is among the few in the nation which has their logo in a transparent bug with time and temperature at all times, including NBC network, syndicated and news programming, though not during commercial breaks or paid programming.

In the fall of 2001, NBC Television Stations buys WSNS-TV outright, result in creating a duopoly with WMAQ-TV; as a byproduct of the purchase, NBC converted that station into an O&O of Telemundo – which NBC had purchased earlier that year, creating the 2 stations as the first Commercial television stations in Chicago. WSNS-TV subsequently integrated its operations into WMAQ-TV's NBC Tower facilities.

On September 6, 2003, WMAQ agreed to lease 4,000 square feet (370 m2) of space at 401 North Michigan Avenue (one block east of the NBC Tower), with the intent to build a streetside studio for the Chicago market, the first to be used for live broadcasting purposes by a Chicago television station.[11] On February 26, 2004, WMAQ-TV garnered national attention when Katie Couric, Al Roker, and Lester Holt hosted the Today show on Cityfront Plaza to unveil the station's streetside studio (known as "Studio 5"). The station's morning and noon newscasts were broadcast from the Michigan Avenue facility until February 2013, when the studio was closed and the space within the 401 Michigan Avenue building was put up for sale, at which time production of both newscasts was moved back to the NBC Tower.[12][13]

In November 2007, the Federal Communications Commission proposed a $10,000 fine against WMAQ-TV for "failure to publicize the existence and location of its children's television programming reports" because the station did not keep adequate records on commercial limits in children's TV programs.[14]

In the fall of 2008, WMAQ-TV's website was relaunched including a new layout as part of a larger revamp of the websites of NBC's entire O&O station group.[15] On January 18, 2011, the FCC and Department of Justice approves the acquisition of station's parent company NBCUniversal by Comcast with the deal closes on January 28, resulting of WMAQ and WSNS and regional sports network Comcast SportsNet Chicago becoming sister stations once the deal is completed; in addition, the branding was shorten to "NBC Chicago" during the short period, which is applied only during mentions in some news reports, network and syndication program promotions and public service announcements, however they continued to use the "NBC 5" branding in news opens; later in February 2012, after a year to used the "NBC Chicago" branding, they reverted to its old "NBC 5" branding full-time. In January 2012, after 12 years of using the gold "5" logo, the new logo was officially introduced in some promos and in print ads, but the new-current logo made its on-air debut on February 28, 2012, coinciding with the new graphics and set. On March 18, 2013, longtime WVIT president and general manager David Doebler appointed as president and general manager of WMAQ-TV, replaces its longtime president and general manager Larry Wert, who later appointed and became president of WGN-TV's parent Tribune Broadcasting.[16]

On February 3, 2012, WMAQ-TV made a biggest controversy ever, the station haved rejected the anti-abortion ad from activist and presidential candidate Randall Terry on the day of Super Bowl XLVI, the station refused to air the ad in the wake of that controversy and because Terry did not appear to be a bona fide candidate.[17]

In February 2015, WMAQ and the other NBC-owned stations offered live, web-based streaming of programming to subscribers of participating cable and satellite television providers, as provided through the TV Everywhere Mobile Apps.[18]

2016 Dish Network retransmission dispute

On March 15, 2016, NBCUniversal pulled the signals of WMAQ-TV and WSNS-TV along with co-owned cable channels USA Network, Bravo, Syfy, MSNBC and CNBC from Dish Network systems in Chicago metropolitan area due to a dispute between NBC and Dish in which Dish Network claimed that NBCUniversal demanded to renew its carriage of 10 NBC-owned stations and 16 Telemundo-owned stations including those removed due to the dispute.[19] Three days later on March 18, 2016, the company announced it will continue to carry WMAQ-TV, WSNS-TV and five other cable channels for another 10 days while seeking arbitration from the FCC.[20]

Digital television

Digital channels

The station's digital channel is multiplexed:

Channel Video Aspect PSIP Short Name Programming[21]
5.1 1080i 16:9 NBC 5 Main WMAQ-TV programming / NBC
5.2 480i COZI-TV Cozi TV

WMAQ-TV also maintains a Mobile DTV feed of digital subchannel 5.2 (labelled "NBCMobile"), which broadcasts at 1.83 Mbit/s.[22][23]

On January 1, 2012, Universal Sports transitioned into a cable- and satellite-exclusive service, causing its affiliates (such as WMAQ) to replace the network and remove the channel from their digital signals entirely, with WMAQ deleting digital subchannel 5.3 as result of the loss of Universal Sports.


WMAQ launched digital subchannel 5.2 as a charter affiliate of NBC Weather Plus in January 2005; the network ceased national broadcasts on December 1, 2008, although the subchannel continued to utilize its local weather maps and traffic reports as NBC Plus afterward. "Raw" coverage of various live events, including Barack Obama's victory rally in Grant Park[24] and Governor Rod Blagojevich's impeachment trial have also been carried on 5.2.[25] On November 1, 2010, WMAQ launched NBC Chicago Nonstop, a news and lifestyle network featuring local programming and programs produced by corporate sister LXTV;[26][27] NBC Nonstop was relaunched as Cozi TV, which soft-launched on December 20, 2012 (officially launching on January 1, 2013).[28][29]

Analog-to-digital conversion

WMAQ-TV shut down its analog signal, over VHF channel 5, on June 12, 2009, the official date in which full-power television stations in the United States transitioned from analog to digital broadcasts under federal mandate. The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 29.[30] Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former VHF analog channel 5.

From June 13 to July 12, 2009, WMAQ-TV had simulcast most of its newscasts as a contributor to WWME-CA (channel 23)'s analog lifeline service for the Chicago area, in an "unprecedented" four-station partnership. The "lifeline" programming provided on analog UHF channel 23 included WMAQ's weekday and Saturday morning, weeknight 6:00 p.m. and weekend 5:00 p.m. newscasts along with WGN-TV (channel 9)'s 9:00 p.m. newscast. The lifeline continued only as a simulcast of entertainment programming from WWME's sister station WCIU-TV (channel 26) until January 2011, when it switched to a simulcast of WCIU's "The U Too" subchannel.[31][32]


As typical for a network-owned station, WMAQ-TV generally carries the vast majority of the NBC network schedule. However, the station does not clear the entirety of NBC's weekday overnight lineup (pre-empting the network's rebroadcasts of the fourth hour of Today and CNBC's Mad Money), and airs The More You Know block on a one-hour delay due to the 9:00 a.m. hour of its Saturday morning newscast (which bookends the Saturday edition of Today), resulting in the third hour of the block being shifted to Sundays whenever network sports telecasts are scheduled on Saturdays during the 12:00 p.m. hour in order to meet FCC educational programming quotas. Syndicated programming broadcast by WMAQ-TV (as of September 2016) include Access Hollywood (including its live counterpart) (which is distributed by corporate sister NBCUniversal Television Distribution), and The Ellen DeGeneres Show.[33] WMAQ-TV serves as the flagship station for Steve Harvey (see below). With this (in part, due to its weekday schedule being heavy on locally produced and NBC network programs), WMAQ-TV has the lowest amount of syndicated programming among the Chicago market's television stations, and one of the lowest amounts in the country (the syndication inventories of Milwaukee NBC affiliate WTMJ-TV, Green Bay CBS affiliate WFRV-TV, Nashville NBC affiliate WSMV-TV, Minneapolis ABC affiliate KSTP-TV, Las Vegas NBC affiliate KSNV-DT and Phoenix NBC affiliate KPNX are also limited in a similar fashion).

Station oddities

Current syndicated programming produced in Chicago

Former syndicated programming produced in Chicago

Other WMAQ-TV produced programs

Former WMAQ-TV produced programs

Sports programming

In recent years, WMAQ-TV has carried select Chicago Bears preseason and regular season games; until NBC reestablished its relationship with the NFL with the network's acquisition of the Sunday Night Football package from ESPN in 2006, these marked the only NFL telecasts on the station following the loss of NBC's rights to the American Football Conference in 1998. Until the preseason game rights moved to WFLD in 2008, the station has had to reschedule NBC network programs pre-empted by the preseason and any cable-originated Bears telecasts, a situation atypical for a network-owned station outside of breaking news and severe weather coverage necessitating such situations. During the regular season, Bears games are rotated between WBBM-TV (through the NFL on CBS), WLS-TV and WCIU-TV (through Monday Night Football) and especially WFLD (through the NFL on Fox and select Thursday Night Football telecasts not carried by WBBM and WMAQ through CBS and NBC's joint rights to the package it shares with NFL Network).

From 2001 to 2002 and again since 2008, WMAQ has served as an official broadcaster of the Chicago Marathon, which is held annually in October; because of its commitments to air the event, the station has had to reschedule NBC News programs pre-empted or delayed by the telecast of the marathon.

From 2002 to 2008, WMAQ served as the official sponsor of the Chicago Blackhawks; the station displayed its in-rink advertisements during all of the NHL franchise's home games held at the United Center, until NBC reestablished its relationship with the NHL with the acquisition of the league's broadcast package from ESPN in 2005. WMAQ occasionally runs special editions of its newscasts or its highlight program Sports Sunday to cover Blackhawks games (notably the Blackhawks' victory in the Stanley Cup finals in 2010, 2013 and 2015) that are broadcast nationally by NBC or through their sister regional sports network Comcast SportsNet Chicago.

Community Outreach

For many years, WMAQ-TV, as part of its commitment to serving the community through extensive local programming, has run a series of different public service campaigns to help educate people on relevant issues and values of the day. The station has numerous relationships and partnerships in serving the Chicago community with charities and non-profit organizations including American Cancer Society, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Autism Speaks, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, Special Olympics, United Negro College Fund, and March of Dimes, among others. In addition, The station produces a news series "Making a Difference" which is aired on the Weekend morning newcast. Carol Cooling-Kopp, WMAQ-TV's longtime community relations assistant and longtime Vice President for Special Projects & Community Relations died on October 30, 2013 after its battle with Lung Cancer; longtime WVIT Community Projects director Emma Asante appointed as WMAQ-TV's Vice President for Special Projects & Community Relations in March 2014 following her death.[38] The station launched the "Making a Difference" initiative in March 2014; later in September 2015, the station also launched the "NBC5 Making A Difference Awards" to further spotlight these individuals at community events.

Make a Wish Miles for Smiles Telethon

WMAQ-TV has hosted the "Make a Wish Miles for Smiles" telethon for many years to raised funds for Make a Wish Foundation, The first annual telethon was first held on June 12, 2012 as a one-day only telethon; following the success of the first telethon, the second telethon was held on June 13, 2013. After the first 2 telethons held in the Summer season, The Telethon was now held in the Spring season beginning in 2014.[39]

Wednesday's Child

In 1999, WMAQ-TV has partnered with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and the Freddie Mac Foundation to joined forces to create a news series called Wednesday's Child, which is aired on the 6:00 p.m. newscast on Wednesdays and on the Sunday morning newscasts, the mission of the news series is to bringing the children to the living rooms of about 500,000 Chicago area residents that is never adopted to their homes. Allison Rosati, a former foster child, serves as a host for the news series in which remained until their last report in 2005. [40]

Health and Fitness Expo/Travel Expo

For many years, WMAQ-TV held its annual Health and Fitness Expo in September each year at Navy Pier, including activities like Health screenings, Workout sessions, Cooking demos, consultations and meet and greet the station's personalities and guests; The first event was named as "Health, Fitness and Fun Fair" in 1997, but the event has moved to January in 2003 and 2005, the later events was held in March of 2008 and 2009; following the success of the Health and Fitness Expo, the station was also held their Travel Expo annually in November in 2007 and 2008 also at Navy Pier, the expo was includes Cultural presentations, Trip planners, games, fun activities, and meet and greet the station's on-air staff and celebrity guests. In 2009, WMAQ-TV management announced that the Travel Expo will not returned for 2009 and the Health and Fitness Expo will not returned in 2010, as a result of the massive layoffs hitting the station in Spring 2009.

Back to School and Winter Coat Drives

Since 1996, WMAQ-TV has held the Winter Coat Drive held during the Holiday season, the Coat drive has helped raised funds for The Salvation Army and during the 2011 Holiday season, Kerry Wood's Wood Family Foundation; The mission of the Holiday Coat Drive is to aim awareness for the needy Chicagoans by bringing used or new coats. following the success of the Holiday Coat Drive, the station also launching its Back to School Supply Drive held annually in the Summer season, the drive is to raised funds for the Chicago Public Schools' Supply the Future campaign by donating their school supplies as part of their effort. In 2016, The station announced that will not held its Back to School drive for 2016, however the station will continued to sponsor the CPS' 2016 Back to School Campaign due to cancellation of the station's Back to School Supply Drive.

News operation

WMAQ-TV presently broadcasts 41 hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with 6½ hours on weekdays, four hours on Saturdays and 4½ hours on Sundays); in addition, the station produces the half-hour sports highlight program Sports Sunday, which airs Sunday evenings after the 10:00 p.m. newscast.

WMAQ's news helicopter, "Sky5".

WMAQ-TV's news department has helped to launch the national careers of Jane Pauley, Deborah Norville, CBS sportscaster Greg Gumbel, HLN morning anchor Robin Meade, Maury Povich, PBS reporter Ray Suarez, and Access Hollywood and The Insider host Pat O'Brien.

The station gained notice in the market during the 1960s for its local newscasts, anchored by Floyd Kalber, John Palmer, Jim Ruddle and Jorie Lueloff, with weatherman Harry Volkman (later of WBBM-TV, WGN-TV and WFLD), sports reporter Johnny Morris, and commentator Len O'Connor. In 1975, Jane Pauley (who would later join the NBC network as co-anchor of Today) briefly served as co-anchor of the station's 10:00 p.m. newscast with Kalber. Carol Marin joined WMAQ-TV in 1978; Ron Magers followed suit three years later. Magers and Deborah Norville (later host of Inside Edition) co-anchored the station's hour-long 4:30 p.m. newscast during the 1980s, and Magers and Marin co-anchored WMAQ-TV's 10:00 p.m. newscast until they both resigned within three weeks of each other in May 1997. Allison Rosati has been the station's main anchor since 1990. From 1997 to 2009, she was teamed with Warner Saunders at 10 p.m., and the two were the longest-serving anchor team in Chicago television history. Political editor Dick Kay has been at the station from 1968 to 2006.

In 1975, the station renamed its local newscasts from NewsFive to NewsCenter 5; this comes after three other NBC owned-and-operated stations in New York City, Washington DC and Los Angeles adopting the NewsCenter name in 1974. The moniker remained until 1983, when the newscasts were renamed Channel 5 News.

In 1989, WMAQ-TV became the first station in Chicago to go on the 24-hour round-the-clock news operation; later on September 6, 1990, WMAQ began airing 25-second news briefs, the station's news briefs – which WMAQ emphasizes in the slogan it adopted, "Your 24-Hour News Source"; the news briefs were later discontinued in January 1992, while the "24-Hour News Source" slogan remained in use until 1993.

In 1990, WMAQ-TV became the first station in Chicago to start its hour-long local morning newscast entitled First Thing In The Morning (now NBC 5 News Today) while other Chicago stations began their local morning newscasts during the 1990s. Two years later, in 1992, the station added 1 hour-long and 1 half-hour Saturday morning and 2 half-hour Sunday morning newscasts, becoming the first station in Chicago to expand its morning newscasts to Weekends.

In January 1991, WMAQ announced plans to launch the "Suburban News Source", a 24-hour local cable news channel featuring 4½-minute-long inserts featuring news headlines specific to each town placed within live simulcasts of the station's noon, 4:00 and 6:00 p.m. newscasts. Originally scheduled to debut on January 14, 1991, the service was to be distributed to Centel Videopath systems in Chicago's northern, northwestern and southern suburbs; however, the service's launch was postponed three times due to logistical issues and demands by cable providers to gain a share of the service's advertising revenues. Station management scrapped plans for the channel in June 1991[41][42][43][44] (incidentally, WGN-TV eventually launched a similar cable channel, Chicagoland Television (CLTV), in January 1993).

In July 1992, NBC commissioned 615 Music to compose the theme NewsWire, a theme package that was quickly picked up by the other NBC affiliates; a year later in 1993, the theme also appeared in the commercial for Thierry Mugler's Angel perfume during its US launch.

On September 11, 1995, before the station rebranded itself as "NBC 5 Chicago", the station expanded its 4:30 p.m. newscast to an hour and Rosati replaces Saunders alongside Joan Esposito, but they later cancelled on October 13, 1995 due to extreme low ratings. On the same day, former WSVN anchor Robin Meade replaced Rosati on the morning newscasts alongside Art Norman.

On June 9, 1997, the station dumped its longtime Channel 5/NBC 5 News branding and the Newswire theme in favor of the new music package and the branding NewsChannel 5; it remained for short use until 1998. In August 1998, the news branding was later renamed NBC 5 Chicago News to focus on the "NBC 5 Chicago" branding; the news branding was used only for three years; later in 1999, they dropped its 1997 music package and they began using 615 Music's Battery package, which lasted for a year until 2000.

In January 1998, the station hired former WSB-TV anchor Marion Brooks as general assignment reporter and Weekend evening Anchor; 8 months later after its promotion, she replaces Rosati on the early evening newscasts with Mark Suppelsa.

On August 24, 1998, WMAQ debuted its one-hour daily lifestyle and entertainment show NBC 5 Chicago Daytime hosted by Rosati and Nesita Kwan alongside meteorologist Byron Miranda, but later on April 26, 1999, the show is reduced to a half-hour.[45] On April 23, 1999, Joan Esposito quits WMAQ after 10 years; Rosati was officially promoted to anchor the 6:00 p.m. newscast two days later.

On September 9, 1998, a technical glitch involving a circuit breaker for portions of the main newsroom control room caused a power failure 15 minutes into the 10:00 p.m. newscast; startled anchors Warner Saunders and Allison Rosati, along with meteorologist Brant Miller and sports anchor Tom Shaer, were scrambled to the station's "weather center" just to the right of the main news desk due to the power failure.[46]

In the Spring of 1999, after negotiations between WMAQ-TV management and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA), all of the station's on-air talent, except for 4 on-air talent, could go on strike. On March 30, 1999, the station's on-air talent plans authorizing a strike vote if a bargaining session with the station in late April failed.[47] Later, on May 14, 1999, four of the station's high-profile personalities including 6:00 & 10:00 p.m. anchor Allison Rosati, chief meteorologist Brant Miller, sports anchor Mike Adamle and Weekend evening meteorogist Shelly Monahan had broken ranks with the union following the strike authorization vote.[48][49]

In 2000, the station replaced the Battery package with a new news music package, also produced by 615 Music, called The Tower, which has remained in use by WMAQ-TV until February 2012; in addition, the new logo was introduced, by moving the peacock logo to the left of the "5" logo, and also its newscast brand "NBC 5 News" was reintroduced; the move was part of a standard branding effort imposed by NBC across its owned-and-operated stations which saw the incorporation of the NBC name into their local brands (most of the other NBC O&Os retained their existing news branding, as sister stations such as WNBC in New York, KNBC in Los Angeles and WRC-TV in Washington, DC as well as former sister stations WJAR in Providence and WCMH-TV in Columbus retained their NewsChannel, Channel (number) News or News (number) identities). From 2000 to 2004, WCPX-TV rebroadcast WMAQ-TV's 10:00 p.m. newscasts.

In 2003, Health Reporter Nesita Kwan was promoted to anchor the 4:30 p.m. newscasts with Brooks following the departure of Suppelsa as co-anchor, making Chicago one of the few large markets with two female anchors on an evening newscast. It was long for 3 years as Kwan was displaced from the afternoon newscast because of changes in the station's early evening news lineup that went into effect on September 18, 2006.

In 2005, WMAQ hired Bob Sirott for the second time; he was anchored alongside Anna Davlantes during the Weekend evening newscasts, but a year after his rehiring, Bob was later promoted to anchor the early evening newscasts alongside Brooks and Anna later solo-anchored the Weekend evening newscasts.

In early fall 2006, additional changes were brought to WMAQ's early-evening lineup. On September 18, the station moved the afternoon newscast to 4:00 p.m. with Sirott and Brooks, and moved the newsmagazine show Extra to 4:30. The early evening newscast remained at 5:00 p.m.; a week later on September 25, 2006, Saunders and Rosati were promoted as anchors of the 5:00 p.m. newscasts.[50] In November 2006, WMAQ-TV announced that its half-hour 11:00 a.m. newscast would be replaced in December by a one-hour daily lifestyle and entertainment show entitled iVillage Live. After the change, WMAQ-TV with only four hours per day of local news, had the shortest airtime devoted to local news of any "big three" network-owned station.

WMAQ altered its 4:00-5:00 p.m. hour on January 15, 2007, swapping the half-hour news at 4:00 with Extra. On the same day, WMAQ-TV debuted the new weekday morning show called Barely Today which is hosted by Bruce Wolf, who was the former weekday morning traffic/sports anchor for WMAQ. The new morning show was simulcast on WLUP-FM (owned at the time by Emmis Broadcasting); the show was later canceled on June 6, 2007. A day later on June 7, 2007, WMAQ-TV became the first station in Chicago to start its morning newscast at 4:30 a.m.; the new half-hour expansion is later spread to other Chicago stations in 2010.

On January 14, 2008, WMAQ-TV became the second television station in the Chicago market (after WLS-TV) to begin broadcasting its local newscasts in high definition. Only in-studio footage and some of the remote field footage were presented in HD; most other remote field footage remained in standard definition using a mixture of 16:9 widescreen and 4:3 cameras.[51] On January 12, 2009, WMAQ and Fox owned-and-operated station WFLD entered into a Local News Service agreement, in which the two stations share helicopter footage; this agreement has reportedly paved the way for a larger pooling effort between the two stations.[52] In Spring of 2009, WMAQ-TV laid off an undisclosed number of additional employees; in addition, they cancelled the Sunday morning newscasts due to budget cuts at the station; the Sunday morning newscasts were later revived on November 7, 2010.[53] In May 2009, the station announced that it would conclude the public affairs program City Desk after 57 years; the show made its final broadcast on May 17, 2009. Two weeks later on May 31, 2009, The Talk debuted on WMAQ with Brooks as host. Prior to this, Sunday morning anchor Ellee Pai Hong left the station after 6 years. On June 12, 2009, Bob Sirott left WMAQ-TV for the second time as his contract with the station had not been renewed.[54] Later, on July 29, 2009, weekend evening anchor Anna Davlantes' contract with the station was not renewed. On August 10, 2009, former Dateline NBC correspondent Rob Stafford was promoted as WMAQ's main anchor; he along with Rosati co-anchored the 5:00, 6:00 and 10:00 p.m. newscasts.[55]

After years in second place behind WBBM-TV and, later, WLS-TV at 10:00 p.m., at the conclusion of the November 2009 Nielsen Ratings sweeps period, WBBM-TV's 10:00 p.m. newscast overtook WMAQ-TV for second place for the first time in many years, largely due to the low ratings of the latter station's lead-in The Jay Leno Show (WLS-TV continues to dominate the local newscast ratings in the Chicago market).[56] It has since regained second place at 10:00 p.m., although closer to third-place WBBM-TV than to WLS-TV. However, in the November 2010 sweeps period, WMAQ's 10:00 p.m. newscast slipped back to third behind WBBM-TV in that time slot (and fourth among Chicago's late night newscasts, behind WGN-TV's 9:00 p.m. newscast), although WMAQ continues to place second in other time slots.

For five years beginning in 2006 (when WMAQ cancelled its 11:00 a.m. newscast), WMAQ differed from most NBC stations in the Central Time Zone in that it did not carry a newscast in the weekday midday time period; this changed on September 12, 2011, when it debuted a half-hour newscast at noon (the program returned to 11:00 a.m. when it was reformatted as an hour-long newscast on September 8, 2014).[57][58] On December 6, 2011, WMAQ-TV announced a partnership with The Chicago Reporter as part of a larger effort by NBCUniversal to partner with non-profit news organizations following its acquisition by Comcast.[59]

In January 2012, WMAQ-TV announced a news partnership testing with Merlin Media's WIQI (now WKQX) to use its audio from all of the newscasts including Morning, Noon, 5, 6, and 10 PM newscasts, as well as sharing of assignments and online content between the two stations. The News partnership ended on July 17, 2012, when WIQI switched to adult hits format, branded as "i101".[60]

On February 28, 2012, WMAQ-TV unveiled a new studio for its newscasts at NBC Tower along with a new music and graphics package, the latter being the standardized "Look F" package by NBC Artworks that was rolled out to other NBC-owned stations around this time. Its logo was also updated, placing the new 3D glassed version of the peacock logo (which was introduced by the network in May 2011) to the left of the "5" logo, becoming the first NBC O&O to add the revised peacock to its logo. Months later (using a setup similar to that used by New York City sister station WNBC), five, adjacent 21-foot (6.4 m)-wide Panasonic plasma monitors used as virtual windows were installed in the studio behind the anchor desk, displaying SkyCam views overlooking North Michigan Avenue and the Chicago River fed by a camera mounted on the 401 Michigan Avenue building that formerly housed the streetside studio.

On July 27, 2013, WMAQ expanded its weekend morning newscasts, with the early edition of the program on both days expanding to two hours with the addition of an hour-long broadcast at 5:00 a.m. (from a previous 6:00 a.m. start) and an additional half-hour added at 10:00 a.m. on Sundays.[61] On February 9, 2014, the Chicago Sun Times announced that it would end its content partnership with WMAQ-TV, and enter into a new content agreement with ABC-owned station WLS-TV on February 10, 2014. In 2015, WMAQ became the first television station in the Chicago market to upgrade its news helicopter's camera system to shoot footage in ultra-high-definition. On August 24, 2015, WMAQ expanded its weekday morning newscast to three hours, with addition of a half-hour at 4:00 a.m., becoming the second Chicago television station to expand into the timeslot – possibly to compete with WGN-TV (which began expanding its weekday morning newscast into the time period in July 2011).[62]

In February 2016, WMAQ-TV became the second television station in Chicago (following WBBM-TV) to have its weather truck. The weather truck, branded as StormChaser 5, is a Ford F-250 pickup truck that has been customized with incredible amounts of weather tracking equipment. Months later, WMAQ-TV became the first station in Chicago to be licensed by the Federal Communications Commission to operate in the high-frequency S-Band; they added mobile Doppler weather radar trucks, named StormRanger 5 and the live doppler radar Live Doppler 5, located in Naperville.

On June 21, 2016, WMAQ-TV, along with sister station WRC-TV in Washington, D.C., revamped their official websites; then, on June 22, 2016, WMAQ began testing its portions of the "Look N" graphics package during some of its newscasts. A week later, on June 28, 2016, starting with the 11:00 a.m. newscast, WMAQ became the fifth NBC-owned station to begin using the "Look N" graphics package in its entirety. The graphics package was first adopted by sister stations WNBC in New York City (the first station to use this package on June 11, 2016), WVIT in Hartford, WTVJ in Miami/Fort Lauderdale, and KXAS-TV in Dallas/Fort Worth. In addition, the news opens were updated; by putting the "NBC 5 Chicago" branding instead of reading NBC 5 News Today (morning newscasts, continue to use during Today news cut-ins) or NBC 5 News (other newscasts) in some opens, and the voiceover was also dumped. On August 8, 2016, the station's hour-long 4:00 p.m. newscast was revived after its 21-year absence, serving as a replacement for Extra which is moving to WFLD after 22 years; becoming the third station in Chicago to expand it to the time period, following WGN-TV (which began its 4:00 p.m. newscast in September 2014) and WLS-TV (which began expanding into the time period in the 1980s), indicating a decreased reliance on syndicated programming.[63] On October 17, 2016, following the debut of its "Look N" graphics, the station removed the regionalized forecast from its on-screen bug during newscasts (Sister station WCAU in Philladelphia also follow the same practice).

Awards and honors

WMAQ-TV news staff at the 75th Annual Peabody Awards in 2016 at which the news department of the station won for its reporting on The Laquan McDonald Investigation.

WMAQ-TV has many national honors for its news reporting for the past years, including three national Edward R. Murrow Awards from Radio and Television News Directors Association (RTNDA) in 2001, in the "Investigative Reporting", "News Series" and "Newscast" categories. In 2002, WMAQ earned two Murrow Awards in its "News Series" and "Investigative Reporting" categories. WMAQ earned another two Murrow Awards in 2003 for its story "A Sister's Last Hope" in the "Feature Reporting" category and in the Investigate Reporting category for its story "Code Blue, Code Red". In 2004, the station receives a Murrow Award for its series "Driving Blind". After a year's absence, WMAQ earned two Murrow Awards in the "Sports Reporting" and "Feature: Hard News" categories in 2006.

The station has earned a News & Documentary Emmy Award for its 2010 report "Burr Oak Cemetery Scandal", which is focusing on the scandal in the Burr Oak Cemetery; WMAQ also received a Peabody Award for its 2015 report on the Investigation of Laquan McDonald in 2016.


Len O'Connor

Veteran newsman Len O'Connor worked his way up from a news writer for NBC Radio's Blue Network to his position as commentator at WMAQ-TV.[64] O'Connor, who was well known for his often-acerbic political commentary, ran afoul of the station's management in 1974, when he reported on Governor Dan Walker's appointment of Bruce Sagan as head of the Illinois Arts Council. O'Connor was troubled by the council's funding grant to the Chicago Dance Foundation, which was headed by Sagan's wife. Following O'Connor's original January 1974 commentary on the grant, Sagan was invited to appear on the station and rebut O'Connor's statements, but declined and subsequently filed a complaint with the FCC in May 1974; Sagan claimed that he had been personally attacked and felt that the station was not enforcing the FCC's Fairness Doctrine. He was again offered an opportunity to refute O'Connor's comments but declined once again, after the FCC had dismissed the charges he levied. Sagan appealed the FCC's decision, and O'Connor believed that the company's attorneys had secretly met with Sagan and offered him airtime in exchange for Sagan dismissing his appeal. WMAQ-TV management stated that they had been open with O'Connor on the matter.[65][66]

O'Connor proceeded to deliver three commentaries on the 10:00 p.m. newscast from September 25 to 27, 1974, that were severely critical of the situation's handling by WMAQ-TV station management. In the commentaries, O'Connor claimed he had been deprived of his freedom of speech, that the station compromised his integrity, and that station management had made secret plans to fire him within a short time after his broadcasts. O'Connor left the station and continued his political commentaries on WGN-TV until his retirement from broadcasting in 1980.[65][66]

Jerry Springer

WMAQ achieved notoriety in 1997 when, in an effort to boost ratings for its newscasts, the station hired Jerry Springer as a commentator.[67] At that time, the station also adopted a more tabloid-style news format, after it hired Joel Cheatwood – previously known for establishing fast-paced tabloid newscasts during his tenures as news director at WSVN in Miami and WHDH in Boston (both owned by Sunbeam Television) – as WMAQ's news director.

Though Springer was once a two-term mayor of Cincinnati before becoming a news anchor for that city's NBC affiliate WLWT, his association with his infamous syndicated talk show (which, until 2009, was recorded at WMAQ's NBC Tower studios, and is now distributed by NBCUniversal through its syndication division) led to the belief that the newscast was being dumbed down. There were a handful of Springer supporters; nevertheless, the incident triggered a lot of negative publicity, on both local and national levels. The station's longtime anchor team of Carol Marin and Ron Magers resigned in protest (with Marin resigning on May 1, and Magers following suit on May 16).[68][69] As Marin signed off her last newscast, station personnel stood en masse in the newsroom behind her – WMAQ's newscasts at that time originated from a studio that opened into the station's newsroom – in a symbolic show of support for her decision to resign; ratings also concurrently declined, with the station's newscasts losing 20% of its audience share by the November 1997 sweeps period. Springer only made two commentaries before he resigned on May 8, feeling unhappy with the criticism he received.[70][71][72]

Magers wound up at rival WLS-TV, where he remained until his retirement in 2016; Marin, meanwhile, joined rival WBBM-TV while contributing reports for CBS News before returning to WMAQ in 2004 as a special correspondent. Lyle Banks, who hired Springer as a commentator, was fired from his position as general manager in January 1998, and was replaced by Larry Wert, who served as WMAQ's president and general manager until 2013, when he left to become president of WGN-TV parent Tribune Broadcasting.[73] 5 months later on May 20, 1998, Cheatwood resigned as news director and was replaced by former WLS-TV news director Frank Whittaker who served as WMAQ's news director until 1999, when he later was promoted to vice president of news, where he remains today.[74]

Amy Jacobson

On July 10, 2007, Amy Jacobson, who had been a reporter at WMAQ-TV since 1997, negotiated her exit with the station, after the release of a videotape in which she and her two sons were spotted at the home of Craig Stebic, with Jacobson clad in a bikini. Craig's wife, Lisa Stebic, was missing and had not been found as of that date. The incident raised the issue whether Jacobson crossed a journalistic ethical line in being friendly with a subject of the story.[75] The video of Jacobson at Craig Stebic's home was obtained by rival WBBM-TV, either taken by or given to its news department, which has the entire six-minute video on its website. In 2008, Jacobson filed a libel lawsuit against WBBM for $1 million after the video was posted by the rival station; the suit was thrown out by an Illinois judge in July 2013.[76]

Governor Quinn campaign commercial

In October 2014, WMAQ-TV had strongly objected to use its clip in the commercial for Governor Pat Quinn's reelection campaign. The commercial included an excerpt from a news report about Bruce Rauner and an audio clip of reporter Carol Marin based on the joint investigation by the station and its former news partner Chicago Sun-Times and reported by Marin, Don Moseley and Dave McKinney involving Rauner’s business practices.[77] On October 10, 2014, the station released a statement on the 10:00 p.m. newscast and on the station's website which said that the station is required by law to air campaign commercials bought by bona fide candidates for public office and the commercial is not an endorsement of Governor Quinn by Marin and WMAQ-TV.[78]


In the May 2015 local Nielsen ratings, WMAQ-TV's newscasts placed second overall among Chicago's television stations. With a 7.4 rating, the 10:00 p.m. newscast was narrowly beaten by its closest late news competitor WLS-TV (which earned an 8.6), but beat WLS for first in the timeslot among adults ages 25–54 on weeknights by an even narrower margin (with a 3.6 rating/9 share, compared to WLS' 3.5 rating, with an audience share tying WMAQ in the slot) and by three-tenths of a point (with a 3.5, compared to WLS-TV's 3.2 rating) with weekend newscasts factored in, likely due to the station's refocusing on investigative journalism and additional upgrades to its news product in recent years, that has helped attract younger viewers.[79] In the February 2015 local ratings, the 10:00 p.m. newscast finished second among the market's late-evening newscasts in that slot with a 6.8 rating, down from a share of 9.1 in February 2014 (when ratings saw a boost from a strong lead-in by NBC's coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympics).[80]

On-air staff

Notable current on–air staff

Notable former on-air staff

^[†] Indicates deceased

See also


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