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Miscellaneous Television History

An Introduction to the background of Peoria Television History...and St. Louis....and Terre Haute....and the Quad Cities.

When the FCC “Freeze” was lifted in April of 1952 few knew that in many areas of the country, and especially here in central Illinois, that a war between broadcast investors and even between communities would break out. The battles were over whether a television market would become an all VHF, all UHF or would be intermixed between one or two VHF stations and a number of UHF stations.

The Chicago television market was considered at the time to be an all VHF market, which would allow viewers to receive all of their local television signals from the VHF band, channels 2-13. This would eliminate the need for them to have UHF receivers and antennas. It would also give Chicago five television stations which would broadcast to a much larger geographic area at lower power levels than that of UHF stations.  Even an "all VHF" market, initially included a few UHF channels, such as St. Louis. 

The FCC also set up a number of all UHF markets in other areas. But, it also allowed a mixture of VHF-UHF stations in some areas.  This would become quite troublesome during the next few years.  In central Illinois the TV markets of Peoria was to be intermixed with 1 VHF commercial station and number of UHF stations, but a contest between at least three other prospective companies kept the VHF commercial license from being issued right away.  It was much easier to apply for the UHF station and have it granted to you by the FCC.

The Central Illinois set up

Springfield, Illinois also was granted an allocation for a VHF commercial station at Channel 2 and very similarly, there were at least three groups battling for the license in the intermixed VHF-UHF market. Meanwhile Champaign, Illinois was granted an allocation for Channel 3 and just like the other two markets, there was a prospective ownership battle involving Midwest Television.

This is when an incredibly smart business maneuver gave Midwest Television the license for Channel 3. August Meyer of Midwest Television wasn't about to risk everything on an “all or nothing” battle. He went to the other competing company and offered it part ownership in his company and its representatives agreed. This eliminated the ownership contest and the FCC awarded the allocation to Midwest Television.  In the early days of television broadcasting in central Illinois, the cities of Springfield, Decatur, Danville and Champaign were all considered separate markets.  Therefore the Champaign market would consist of 2 VHF stations (one commercial and one educational).  The other markets in Decatur and Danville would be UHF markets and Springfield would be intermixed with 1 VHF and 2 or more UHF stations.  Later  technology would allow for more powerful UHF stations along with a sprinkling of UHF translator stations in fringe areas.  At that point in time the markets were combined to create what is called a hyphenated market stretching across mid Illinois from the Illinois River eastward into west central Indiana.  It is now known as the Springfield, Decatur, Champaign-Urbana, Danville market of central Illinois.  See more on the histories of the individual stations from the list above.

ABC wants/needs VHF affiliates

Meanwhile the other ownership battles raged. At the same time, it became obvious that the Quad Cities and St. Louis did not have enough channels allocated to give those markets VHF service to the new and fledgling ABC TV network. St. Louis had channel 4 and 5 allocated and was waiting for the granting of channel 11 which wouldn't take place for a number of years.   (Adjacent channels were only allowed in same markets between channel 4 and 5 as well as 6 and 7 because there is frequency spectrum padding between the two adjacent channels) The Quad-Cities had channel 4 and 6.

The FCC was getting pressure from Congress and ABC to make sure that viewers would have the largest choice of TV channels possible and all three networks would have VHF channels from which to call home. This created a problem among those two markets, but it became apparent that by moving channel 8 from Peoria to the Quad-Cities, and channel 2 to St. Louis the problem would be solved.

Terre Haute gets re-aligned

By 1964 another channel 2 allocation was also awarded to Terre Haute, Indiana. This would become WTWO, Channel 2, Terre Haute's NBC affiliate (and a secondary ABC affiliate along with WTHI) in 1965.  Earlier, after the “freeze,” in February of 1954, Terre Haute also picked up the allocation for channel 10 which was taken away from Bloomington, Indiana. WTTV changed frequency from channel 10 to channel 4 at that time. Channel 10 would become WTHI-TV,Terre Haute, Indiana's CBS(and secondary ABC affiliate along with WTWO).  WIIL-TV, Channel 38 wouldn't come along until the April of 1973 and become Terre Haute's full time ABC affiliate(call letters changed in the 1980's to WBAK-TV, then to FOX as WFXW in the 90's, now is back at ABC as WAWV as of September 1, 2011).

The Springfield to St. Louis Battle

A UHF station, WTVI, Channel 54 began broadcasting in August of 1953. It was licensed to Belleville, Illinois, but broadcast from Alton, Illinois to the St. Louis metro area. In those early months WTVI was a full time DuMont affiliate and a part time ABC station, as well as a part time CBS affiliate before KWK-TV, Channel 4 went on the air from St. Louis in July of 1954. After which, CBS moved its affiliation to the more desirable VHF station, leaving WTVI with DuMont. WTVI also lost ABC affiliation after the sign-on of KSTM-TV, St. Louis next UHF station to go on the air.  After the failure of KSTM-TV, WTVI then picked up the primary affiliation with ABC and moved to St. Louis and channel 36 to the former home of KSTM-TV, which operated at channel 36 from October of 1953 to August of 1954.  That facility was located at 5915 Berthold in St. Louis.  WTVI found it ideal for their use and moved right in becoming Channel 36, KTVI in 1955. 

One note on network affiliation during the mid 1950's in St. Louis, the lines of affiliation were very blurred.  In an August edition of TV Guide, KWK-TV(Channel 4) was listed as being CBS and an ABC affiliate.  Meanwhile, KSD-TV(Channel 5) was listed as NBC and CBS, while KTVI(Channel 36) was an ABC and DuMont affiliate.  Even after KWK-TV went on the air, as late as November 1954, WTVI(54) in Belleville was broadcasting CBS programming like "Person to Person" with Edward R. Murrow.

One note, the former broadcast tower of KSTM-TV and KTVI-TV became a landmark for south St. Louis.  In 1959, the upper part of the tower was toppled by a tornado which tore through that area.  The base of that tower stood for a number of years with signage identifying that location as the home of KTVI, Channel 2.  That location was the home of KTVI through February of 2009.  The facility is now vacant as KTVI moved to another studio after the merging of operations with KPLR, Channel 11.   See more on the history of KTVI  on the St. Louis TV History Page.

You'll see more about this long controversial move of the channel 2 allocation from Springfield to St. Louis on the History of WICS page and throughout the history of the other central Illinois TV stations.






Two newspaper clippings of the controversy which took place when the allocation
for VHF channel 2 was moved from Springfield, Illinois to St. Louis, Missouri.
This one involving alleged possible "dealings" which involved Sen Stuart Symington (D) from Missouri.

Click on the pictures above to enlarge.

(clippings from the Bloomington Daily Pantagraph)

The Peoria to Quad-Cities War and its aftermath

The channel 8 story in Peoria was a different story. The battle raged on through various court fights between all of the prospective ownership groups in Peoria (two of which were radio station owners WIRL and WMBD) and the FCC. The community leaders in the Quad-Cities obviously wanted channel 8, but so did community leaders in Peoria. In 1957, the FCC had determined that channel 8 would go to the Quad-Cities and would ultimately give that market its first ABC VHF full time affiliate. By 1957 when that FCC ruling came down, there were no less than eight groups of Quad-City investors who all wanted the channel 8 allocation there.  By 1958, three of the groups had withdrawn their application. In 1960, the license was awarded to Community Television Corporation, but by June of 1961, the FCC changed it's decision to award the license to Moline Television Corporation which consisted of a group of local owners. It's unknown why the FCC changed their 1960 ruling.

WQAD-TV became the Quad-Cities ABC affiliate when it signed on the air in 1963 under the ownership of Moline Television. In spite of other objections raised by the ownership of fellow ABC affiliate WIRL-TV, Channel 19 in Peoria, in that the coverage area of Channel 8 would overlap significantly across the market area of WIRL-TV. That dispute was settled by 1963.

When the initial FCC decision to move channel 8 to the Quad-Cities in 1957, one of the prospective groups in Peoria would wait only a few years and eventually purchase WTVH by the mid 1960's. Channel 19 would go through its first of many call letter changes and become WIRL-TV.

Also at that time, CBS was holding out to become the affiliate for Peoria's channel 8 which was not to be. In the meantime, they were splitting network time with WTVH which also was a primary ABC affiliate. When the third television license for Peoria was awarded on channel 31 in 1957, it was to be a CBS affiliate with the call letters and affiliation of WMBD Radio, WMBD-TV. WMBD-TV went on the air New Years Evening 1958. This decision by CBS would devastate the finances of WTVH and would contribute to the stations third place position in the market for years.














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Non Heritage Central Illinois TV Stations
 
WCIX, Channel 49, Springfield, Illinois (W-49-AA, WCFN)
See History of WCIA

WRSP, Channel 55, Springfield, Illinois (WPNG, WBHW)
WCCU, Channel 27, Urbana, Illinois



Springfield's Second TV Station

Springfield's second television station came many years after the initial plans were made for WMAY-TV on channel 8. In fact, improvements to the facilities for WICS, Channel 20 were delayed for several years pending the FCC decision on whether or not the license for channel 2 would be issued. Further investments to WICS would have been a huge mistake by ownership, if WMAY-TV went on the air. The potential dominance of WMAY-TV on VHF channel 2 probably would have put WICS out of business very quickly.

Early television lists of the 1950's also listed a previous applicant for channel 55 in Springfield, although its not known who the applicant was. Call letters were seemingly applied for, though, as WPNG was listed. The story of this central Illinois “also-ran” remains a mystery, perhaps to be researched at a future time.

This leaves the under powered, under capitalized effort of William(Bill) H. Wingerter as the founder of Springfield's second television station. I haven't researched the background of WBHW-TV to establish the identities of the investors or even the name of the company that filed for the license, but one of the major owners appeared to be Wingerter.




Actual screen grab of WBHW, Channel 55 recorded from Taylorville, Illinois, 27 miles from the station.  As you can see, the static in the signal shows how inadequate the power of the station was in reaching the entire central Illinois area.

(from the Doug Quick Collection)


He had an early connection to WICS, as he was the businessman who owned the meat processing company known for producing Pegwill Weiners. The name “Pegwill” was derived from his wife name, Peggy and his name William. Evidently, being a terrific promoter of his product, he created the concept of using local television to sell his product to Springfield area kids. He did it with the creation of “Pegwill's Circus” a locally produced TV program which included a panel made up of local kids who participated in the many contests, drawings and other activities which was centered around himself as the ringmaster of the circus. The show also included the broadcast of cartoons and other film features. See the History of WICS for more information.

Later in his life, he would promote the creation of a television station which would bear his initials, BHW. The television station would be housed in a former self standing mens clothing store located off of Clear Lake Avenue just east of a K-Mart shopping center along the frontage road. The building is no longer in existence. The signal of the station was microwaved to the transmitter/tower site located off of North Grand Avenue near the intersection of I-55 on Springfield's northeast edge.

The facility of WBHW was sadly lacking in even the basic professional broadcast equipment. I have been told the station even used VHS recorders/players for basic programming recording and commercial playback. The transmitter was a low power unit which combined with its relatively short broadcast antenna/tower barely sent a signal to the other side of the city of Springfield!


Programming on WBHW consisted of second and third rate movies from 16 mm prints, to syndicated programming from Viacom and other syndicators including such off network programming such as “Andy Griffith Show,” “Dick Van Dyke,” “The Munsters” and “The Virginian.” First run programming included “The Merv Griffin Show” and various syndicated sporting events. Childrens programming included “The Big Blue Marble,” “The New Zoo Revue” and “Bullwinkle and Rocky.” The station also broadcast the I.N.N.(Independent News Network-from WPIX-TV, New York) at 9pm...probably taken off air from the local cable company and KPLR-TV, Channel 11, St. Louis.

WBHW was included in the local program listings of TV Guide, but at least for a time in 1982, the station was omitted. It's unknown what the status of the station was during the time it was not listed. As a station was included in the listings as a part of an advertising trade-agreement between the magazine and the local stations, it's possible that the station broke it's agreement pending a sale of the facility to new ownership.

TV Guide listings of Channel 55 resumed during 1983 as it was now listed as WRSP, after the station was purchased by Springfield Broadcasting Partners, which was owned by long time broadcaster Cy Bahakel and his Cy Bahakel Communications.

Cy Bahakel Ownership

It wasn't long that the station began to see upgrades in both its facility and its transmitter/tower. The actual broadcast facility was upgraded with professional broadcast equipment including control boards, audio boards, 1” video tape recorders/players and an upgraded film chain. Programming also improved under the Bahakel early ownership. Off network programming began to be shown from video tape, instead of the film chain, which vastly improved the overall technical quality. The programming offered began to be of higher quality, although the station continued to broadcast the off-network CBS fare including those mentioned before with the addition of “Switch,” “Hogan's Heroes” and “Bewitched.” First run syndicated programming included “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman,” “Celebrity Showcase” and “Soul Train.”

It's not known when the studio facility was moved from the former clothing store to its present location on Old Rochester Road on Springfield's east side, but it was more than likely during the mid to late 1980's. The station also built a new tower near that of the new WICS tower which was built in the 1970's. The new WRSP tower was now around 1400-feet and combined with a new transmitter gave the station an ERP of around 2-million watts.

The building of the much more powerful station on Channel 55, gave the station a watchable signal over half of the market, but in order to achieve market wide interest for national and regional advertisers, it was necessary to cover the entire market. Much like the situation in the early days of WICS with the building of WCHU and the purchase of WDAN-TV, WRSP under the ownership of Bahakel would have to come up with a second TV station to cover that half of the market.


WRSP and FOX

In October 1986, WRSP would become an affiliate with the FOX network, with the stipulation that a facility be added to the east side of the market to receive programming. The affiliation with FOX would give the stations programming during two hours of prime-time, a late night talk show(hosted by Joan Rivers) and eventually weekend sports programming. That affiliation continues today.

Duopoly rules at the time, made it difficult for one owner to build another TV stations in the same market It appears that an arrangement was made with an intermediary owner who would apply for channel 27 in Urbana, operate the station as an affiliate with a local network, that being an affiliate of WRSP and FOX. Essentially a localized management agreement until such time that duopoly rules were relaxed to allow for multi-station ownership within the same market.

WCCU, Channel 27, Urbana went on the air April 25, 1987 and automatically became a FOX affiliate. The station operated from a master control-small studio set up from an office suite on Killarney Avenue along I-74 just off of the Lincoln Avenue exit in north Urbana. This location would link the station via microwave to its tower/transmitter located between Penfield and Armstrong, near the Middle Fork River in extreme north-west Vermilion County along U.S. 136. Even though a full powered station, the relatively short broadcast tower would limit the coverage area to the Champaign-Urbana, Danville and Rantoul area. The station did include local public affairs programming which was broadcast from the small studio of WCCU.

Initially the leased tower site was to be temporary, as the tower was a used one from another unknown site and erected within a wooded area. Plans reported at the time would move the broadcast tower/transmitter to another location probably near to that of the WICD tower between Fithian and Homer closer to I-74. That move was never made and the station continues to broadcast from the original location.

Within a couple of years, the station would be purchased by Springfield Broadcasting Partners and would fall under the ownership umbrella of Cy Bahakel. It was right after the Bahakel purchase that the station eliminated the use of the master control facility and WCCU became a full time satellite to WRSP, Channel 55 in Springfield. There were, though, instances of which separate commercials were broadcast from Channel 55 and Channel 27. WCCU also maintained a separate sales staff for the east side of the market.





(top): screen grab from 1989 with a simulcast ID of WRSP/WCCU.

(bottom): FOX 55/27 logo from the early 00's.

(from the Doug Quick collection)

During this time, the signal of WRSP was picked off the air and re-broadcast on WCCU. Like that of the situation between WICS and WCHU in the early 1960's, the WRSP/WCCU arrangement was less than desirable. The reception of WRSP from the location on Killarney or another site nearby from which the signal would be microwaved to the transmitter site was unreliable. There were hours and sometimes days on end, which would leave WCCU without any programming and broadcasting either a badly distorted video/audio signal or just black screen.

The means of getting a reliable signal to WCCU was finally obtained with the installation of a microwave transmission relay system sometime in the early 1990's. Further upgrades were made in the early 2000's which would install a duel antenna and transmitter which would allow the station to broadcast an analog and digital signal on adjacent channels during the digital transmission changeover. The transmitter site was also equipped with back-up power generators and a satellite equipment to receive FOX high-definition programming, being switched the SD signal via microwave from the master control facility in Springfield.


In the early 2000's WRSP/WCCU were sold to GOCOM media of Illinois which operate the stations along with sister station WBUI, Channel 23, Decatur, Illinois.

WRSP/WCCU broadcasts a local news program which is produced by Sinclair stations WICS/WICD. The newscast is simulcast by both station with the exception of local weather which is produced by WICS for WRSP and WICD for WCCU.

WRSP broadcasts on UHF channel 44 using the virtual channel 55 while WCCU broadcasts on UHF channel 26 using the virtual channel 27.  The signals of both also broadcast the programming of Me-TV, the nostalgia television network with shows from the 50's-80's.  Me-TV is designated as 55.2 and 27.2. 

Currently the operations of Fox 55/27 are under the control of Sinclair Broadcast Group, the licensee holder of WICS and WICD.



WBUI, Channel 23, Decatur, Illinois (WFHL, WPXU)


Four Square Gospel Church


In May of 1984, the Four Square Gospel Church of Decatur applied for and received the broadcast license to operate a commercial television station on channel 23 in Decatur. WFHL(We bring Faith Hope and Love) broadcast religious programming with both local and syndicated sources. It relied on some commercial income but also received donations during fund drives broadcast on the station. Among many syndicated religious programs, the station also aired such syndicated family programs as “The Brady Bunch.” The station also broadcast a local newscast during prime time anchored by the publisher/editor of a local newspaper, the Decatur Tribune, Paul Osborne. Osborne was later elected mayor of Decatur some years later.


WFHL to WPXU

By 1997, the station turned out to be a financial burden to the religious group and it was sold to Paxson Communications which operated the station with the call letters of WPXU. The station was to be an affiliate to the planned Paxson Television Network, which would televise family friendly fare to its affiliates across the country. As part of he agreement, Four Square Gospel would still have some access to program either its own produced religious programming or other syndicated religious programming.


WFHL, Channel 23, Decatur, Illinois

(from Michael Badger Collection)



WPXU to WBUI

With the passing of the Paxson plan to establish a television network and the ownerships need for cash, the station was sold in 1999 to a company with close ties to the newly established WB network, ACME Communications. ACME also owned KPLR, Channel 11 in St. Louis. With that connection, and KPLR's rights to the St. Louis Cardinal Baseball broadcasts, WBUI also would broadcast the MLB games. With the ownership change in 1999, the station would become WBUI(WB for the University of Illinois area). As the WB network developed, so did the viewership of centrally located WBUI in the market. The station would move its antenna from a previously leased site and tower to its own broadcast tower located just a short distance from that of WAND's tower in the Argenta-Oreana area along I-72.

In 2007 WBUI was purchased by GOCOM Media Communications which owns WRSP/WCCU in Springfield. The FCC waived its duopoly rules for the sale, as the central Illinois market did not have enough different owners at the time to permit another duopoly in the market-same owners, two different signals. As WBUI was classified as a “distress” sale situation, the FCC allowed the station to be sold to GOCOM since there was stated a strong chance the station would go dark.


WPXU becomes WBUI and
an affiliate of the new WB network.

(from the Doug Quick Collection)

Since then, the station remains the central Illinois television home to the St. Louis Cardinals broadcasts as well as programming from the CW network which was an outgrowth of the former WB and UPN networks. The station airs a mixture of off network syndicated programming as well as movies and first run syndicated programming.  It also broadcasts the programming of THIS TV on its secondary digital signal 23.2. 

The operation of WBUI is now under control of Sinclair Broadcast Group, the licensee of WICS and WICD. 




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Western Illinois Television




KHQA-TV, Channel 7, Hannibal-Quincy, Illinois
coming soon



WGEM-TV, Channel 10, Quincy, Illinois
coming soon



WJJY, Channel 14, Jacksonville, Illinois

Jacksonville, Illinois first television station!

WJJY, Channel 14, Jacksonville, Illinois was a relative late comer to major network affiliation and the television landscape of central Illinois. It suffered from the same problems that many UHF stations died from in the 1950's. First of all it was a UHF station located on the fringe of the all VHF Hannibal-Quincy market. It was an ABC affiliate in an era in which CBS and NBC had most of the popular programs. WJJY began with a goal to operate a news department in a small town located miles away from the two main metro areas in the market. Technically, virtually all of the station's equipment was leased through RCA, and included an experimental antenna developed by RCA. WJJY also appeared to have started with little or no long term capitol to keep it afloat for any time at all.

It was a brainchild of Keith Moyer(who also started WTIM Radio in Taylorville, Illinois in the early 1950's) who formed Look Television, Inc. with the investments of many local business people. Channel 14 would broadcast from one of the tallest broadcast towers in the northern hemisphere at 1,610 feet from the bluffs along the Illinois River west of Jacksonville. It also included one of the most powerful UHF RCA transmitters at the time which would give the station an ERP of 4.5 million watts.

WJJY-TV went on the air as an ABC affiliate in August of 1969 from studios located at 1314 West Walnut in Jacksonville. I remember being excited about having another alternative television station as it was receivable on my 12-inch Zenith portable TV using a small loop antenna from Taylorville, Illinois located about 50 miles from Jacksonville, and about 60 miles away from the transmitter!

Among the staffers of WJJY were Jerry Slade (later changed to Slabe), Mike Cheevers (who later was promotions manager at WAND) as John Mazotti (long time WTIM Radio DJ). The local newscasts also included the talents of Bob McClelland and his “weather wise weather widgets” which were cartoon characters he would actually draw to help tell the weather story of the day.




An ID slide from WJJY-TV, Channel 14 in
Jacksonville, Illinois from 1969.

For more on WJJY-TV visit
The Rise and Fall of WJJY-TV

(courtesy of J. Mitch Hooper)

At that time most non-network programming had to be purchased directly from syndication and suppliers as the commercial barter system had yet to be widely used by stations and syndicators. WJJY had no cash to purchase programming, so for example ABC Saturday morning childrens programming was video taped and played back during the late afternoons during the time not programmed by ABC. The station also took on the role of broadcasting educational programming during the day in association with University of Illinois broadcast station WILL-TV as a way go increase revenue by being paid by the state of Illinois.

Within a year and a half, the station was failing fast. ABC was threatening to cancel their ABC affiliation as audience levels were even lower that that under their part time shared affiliation agreements with Quincy stations WGEM-TV and KHQA. The bank, though, beat ABC to the punch as the station went quickly into receivership. RCA reclaimed most of their leased equipment and sold it on the open market.


Even their monster tower/antenna suffered from failure as its remains fell during an ice storm long after the station went dark. On Easter morning in 1978, the same ice storm which claimed WAND's tower/antenna also took down the 1,610 foot tower formerly used by WJJY. Thanks to the ice load on the tower, and the 26 ton experimental antenna (most were in the range of 2 to 9 tons), the tower collapsed and was eventually sold as scrap metal.

Since the demise of the station, the building which housed the studio is still standing, but has been repainted a number of times to hide its history. The microwave tower which stood at the rear of the building is gone. The building is now home to the Elm City Rehabilitation.

For more on this fascinating story of WJJY, Channel 14 go to The Rise and Fall of WJJY-TV, Channel 14.

source: J. Mitch Hopper





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Other Television Stations

WGN, Channel 9, Chicago


These are all ads from the only TV Guide I have in the 1950's from the Chicago edition.  This
includes a number of WGN-TV ads with syndicated programs, movies and WGN productions
such as that of the "Chicago Symphony Orchestra Concert"

(TV Guide, the Doug Quick Collection)



(far left): Harry Carey during one of the Cubs Baseball broadcasts of the 1980's.

(center): WGN logo from the 1970's

(near left): WGN logo ID from the
1980's







Central Illinois Television Faint Images

Here are a few of the most well known proposed TV stations from central Illinois.  None of which ever made it air.  I'm assuming there were probably others which maybe were discussed, others may have reached legal status with filings with the FCC, but no evidence exists of them now and they have faded in time.

Champaign WICU, Channel 21

In early 1953, there was yet another request for a Champaign TV station filed, this one on the UHF frequency band, channel 21.  This group, Champaign Television, Inc. was organized and represented by Phillip Zimmerly.  After the request for the license was filed, there were a series of questions about the proposed broadcast tower's location from area air fields, including nearby Chanute Air Field in Rantoul.  The proposed tower was called "a hazard and danger to air navigation."  A number of hearings and meetings were held in July of 1953, and resulted in the permit for the tower to be built.  It was a proposed 750-foot tower and antenna which was to be located near the US 150 and Lake of the Woods Road and was eventually approved by the equivalent to the F.A.A. at the time.

The principals of the Champaign Television, Inc. were Dallas Smyth, professor of economics and communication research at the U of I;  David F. Holshouser, assistant professor of electrical engineering at the U of I; Vernon Fryburger, assistant professor of journalism and communications.  The controlling bulk of the stock was owned by a group of New York realtors. 

The group in published stories, also hoped to be the first station with a color transmitter in the market.  There was no projected on-air date stated.  The owners in other newspaper reports said they were not in any hurry to sign-on preferring to wait on "new technological changes: which would change their plans.  They stated that changes in lighting, projection systems and th advent of color TV would want to be incorporated in their future plans. 

In July of 1953, the FCC granted a construction permit to build the new UHF station at Channel 21. 

The owners of Champaign Television during 1954 went through a series of changes and was reorganized under a new President, Norman Blankman of New York City, and a new company name "Champaign-Urbana Television Inc...  By June of 1954, almost a year later, the FCC dismissed the application stating that the company's "failure to prosecute the application."  That was were the story ended. 

Decatur-Unknown call letters, Channel 23

At the time of the walkout/firings of the general manager, Harold Cowgill and 20 other WTVP employees, including News Editor(News Director) James E. Crowell the announcement was made by Cowgill of his plans to apply for and operate a competing TV station in Decatur.  He said in news paper reports in January of 1954 his plan to file and application for Channel 23 in Decatur.  He was quoted as saying he could be on the air with the new station in as little as 90 days.  His alliance with his former workers at WTVP was evident when he went on to say he hoped that some of his former WTVP staff members would follow him to his new station.  Whether or not, the application went forward from there is unknown, but there is no evidence that the license was ever granted or that it was even filed with the FCC.

Mattoon-WLBH-TV, Channel 10 or Channel 2

In 1960 it was reported from a story dated April 23, 1960, in the Champaign News Gazette, an FCC examiner recommended that the FCC reject a bid by Livesay Broadcasting Company(WLBH-AM/FM, Mattoon) to take over the TV channel 10 in Terre Haute, Indiana.  WTHI occupied the channel and had requested a move to lower dial position Channel 2.  The allocation was opened up in Terre Haute(at the same time channel 2 opened up in St. Louis) after it was moved from Springfield, Illinois.  The examiner refused the bid by Livesay because of the Wabash Valley Broadcasters(owner of WTHI) "superiority in local ownership" and it's record of public service.  It was unclear as to whether the proposed ownership of channel 10 would have moved the station to Mattoon or if it would have stayed in Terre Haute. 

Springfield-WMAY-TV, Channel 2


Here from the Springfield Journal-Register from 1953 is the newspaper article with news of the proposed Channel 2 to be located in Springfield:

Reveals Details of Proposed WMAY-TV Station Here

"Gordon Sherman, general manager of radio station WMAY, yesterday disclosed further details of the proposed operation of television station WMAY-TV. If it is granted a construction permit for channel 2."

"A hearing before the Federal Communication Commission involving the three local applicants will be necessary however, before a decision is rendered. The Sangamon Valley Television Corp. (WTAX) and the Capitol City Television Co. are applying for channel 2, in addition to WMAY-TV, Inc.."

"As previously announced, the commission has set Oct. 30 as the pre-hearing dates, at which time representatives of the three local applicants will confer on the exact procedures to be followed in possessing the actual hearing itself. While the actual hearing date is still unknown, it likely will be in December or January, according to Sherman. In a hearing such as this the issue involved is a comparative one, basically to determine which of the applicants is best qualified to operate the station, from the standpoint of practical experience and inherent ability."

"Major stockholder in WMAY-TV, Inc, is the Lincoln Broadcasting Company, Inc which operates WMAY. The company's corporate setup includes Gordon Sherman, Melvin Feldman, chief engineer, Syi Binkin, program director and Robert Weiner, public affairs director."

"The remainder of the WMAY-TV corporation structure includes Lee Ruwitch, vice president and general manager of television station WTVJ, Miami, Fla, who will resign that position and come to Springfield to a managerial position at WMAY-TV; Richard Cohen, assistant general manager of the Mill restaurant, who will server in a business capacity at WMAY-TV; Mel Kampe and John O'Shea, both presently staff members of station WMAY."

"Ruwitch is one of the television industry's most prominent figures. Station WTVJ, under his direction is considered by many as one of the most progressive TV stations in the country. Radio personnel from all parts of the nation have taken advanced television training at WTVJ."

"Ruwitch is also engaged in producing motion pictures for television. Sherman points out there will be no outside interests involved in operating WMAY-TV. Everything will be consolidated around closely knit local group, all actively participating in the day to day operations of the television station."

"The stations extensive program schedule covers the operating day from 6:55am to 11:15pm and Friday and Saturdays until after midnight. A staff of some 64 persons will be hired."

"A modernistic structure will be by built on By-pass 66 just south of the city, to house the studios, transmitter and offices. It will be a two story affair, streamlines for the most modern telecasting facilities and incorporating the latest in technical and operating improvements. The equipment employed will be capable of transmitting color television when network color programs become available."

"WMAY-TV will utilize the maximum power of 100,000 watts on channel 2 which is equal to five million watts on U.H.F. Channels, according to some of the best engineering brains in the industry. The station's antenna height will be 751 feet, or 1341 feet overall height above mean sea level. It will effectively cover an area in approximately a 65 mile radius of Springfield. This will include such towns as Decatur, Jacksonville, Bloomington, Lincoln, Alton, Canton, Pekin, Vandalia and others."


WMAY-TV was proposed to go on the air if the license was granted to that radio group.  There were others applying for the license, but ultimately, WMAY's proposal before the FCC was the closest to becoming Springfield's second TV station.   If WMAY-TV was granted Channel 2 by the FCC, the big question would be, would WICS be able to survive against a big VHF regional station in the same city?    As it turned out, we'll never know the answer to that question as other factors would enter into the channel assignments of central Illinois TV stations.

There were listings of TV stations, on-air and proposed which by 1958 listed a proposed station on Channel 36 and it was listed as WMAY-TV.  Presumably after the allocation for Channel 2 was pulled from Springfield.  This move from Channel 2 to 36 reduced the proposed station from a regional power house with a radius of over 65 miles to a much smaller coverage area, most likely around 40 miles which also reduced the chance of success for the investors in the new TV station.

The moving of those allocations set up the Champaign-Springfield-Decatur and Danville market as a 1-VHF, 3+ UHF and 1-VHF educational market.  Meanwhile Peoria was set up as a total UHF market.

I was curious as to the identity and credentials for Lee Ruwitch and found a wealth of information on this well known, successful south Florida broadcaster.  His widow and son Robert have established the Lee Ruwitch Endowed Scholarship Fund which awards scholarships to Floridians who pursue their education at the School of Business at the University of Miami.  

Lee Ruwitch was born in 1931 in Escanaba, MI. He served in WWII in the U.S. Navy after obtaining a B.A. At the University of Minnesota. He and his wife Francien (Chaney) settled in Miami, Florida in 1945. He went on to develop and manage WTVJ, Florida's first TV station. He died on April 23, 1999.

There were also TV station lists from the mid 1950's which also listed on air as well as proposed TV stations around the country.  There was at least one listing that included a proposed station WPNG on channel 55.  I have collected no information on that proposed station, which also never went on the air.




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Evolution of TV Guide listings 1954-1980 for St. Louis and Central Illinois




In 1954 the St. Louis market had
lost two local UHF stations, Channel 14 in Festus, MO and KSTM(Channel 36) licensed
to St. Louis....leaving  three  VHF and
1 UHF station.


WTVI, licensed to Belleville and covering
St. Louis with the astounding 220,000 watts
of power overlooking the "gateway city" was listed as being an ABC and DuMont affiliate.

Meanwhile KWK-TV had taken CBS away from WTVI and was even broadcasting
a few ABC shows.

Also, KSD-TV was overlapping primary
NBC affiliation with a few ABC shows as well.


(Right): The next year in 1955, WTVI had become KTVI broadcasting from the former
home of KSTM on Berthold Ave in
St. Louis.  Ownership was waiting for the
possible allocation for Channel 2 to
open up, as it was possibly moving
from Springfield, IL.

Note WCIA's affiliation listed as
CBS and
NBC.

WTVP was listed as an
ABC and DuMont affiliate


WICS was listed as being affiliated
with all major networks.




(Right): The TV Guide
Channel listings from 1957 showing
Peoria stations WTVH and WEEK.
Notice the early dial position of WEEK
at Channel 43...and the network
affiliation of each.  WTVH with primary
CBS and secondary ABC, while WEEK
was primarily NBC.





(Right): Peoria ads WMBD-TV as the
markets exclusive CBS affiliate.  WTVH
goes to primary ABC affiliation.  Also, note that WEEK was using a translator to
reach a signal into the LaSalle area.

(Right): TV Guide listings from September
of 1962, before the listing for WICD was
added to the schedule. 

This listings included the use of
translators by WEEK with WEEQ-TV, LaSalle, IL
WTVP was using W-70-AF, Channel 70 in Champaign and WTVH was using W-78-AC in LaSalle-Peru.  WEEQ was actually a full powered
translator-station, while the others were
at extremely low power with a range of
less than 12 miles.



sources:
Wikapedia
TV Guide(the Doug Quick collection)
KTVI-You Tube Posts
Bloomington Daily Pantagraph(through the Abraham Lincoln Library and the Danville Public Library)
Broadcasting-Telecasting




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The Small Print

What I have put together here covers the heritage stations in the Champaign-Urbana, Decatur, Springfield and Bloomington market which can take their history back to 1953.  Even though I am employed technically by two of the stations listed, I have tried to be objective.  The information here contains no authorized information from any of the stations, including the one to which I am employed, and this site simply exists for the entertainment and curiosity of those interested in local TV and radio broadcasting. 

Many of the images are from my personal collection of TV programs and special TV historical perspectives recorded on local TV and satellite feeds from 1980 to the present.   The original copyrighted information is owned by the networks, stations and/or publications and contained within this site simply for the historical significance of each item.  If any of the copyright holders object to any images on this site e-mail me and it will be removed and an explanation will be in it's place.

Many contributors have donated digital images and their own recollection to this site.

This site also includes information gathered from TV Guide articles(they used to include local TV station news), TV Guide ads, a few newspaper articles(mainly the Springfield Journal Register, Decatur Herald and Review, Champaign News-Gazette, Urbana Courier, Bloomington Daily Pantagraph and the Danville Commercial News) and my own memory growing up and watching Central Illinois TV on various Philco, Sylvania, G.E., RCA and Zenith TV's of the eras. 

I have also included information from volunteer contributors who are noted.  Most of the station promotional ads are from Central Illinois TV Guides from 1953-2005 which are in my own personal collection.  ALL IMAGES appear on this web site only for their historical significance.  I believe most facts stated on these pages are accurate, but I'll keep an open mind to any corrections that anyone should volunteer.   I'll also include any more verifiable contributions anyone would send me.


The images contained on this website are copyrighted by their respective owners where they apply and are presented here as part of a display showing the history of local local television stations from central Illinois.  This site is in no way associated with any of the local TV stations, or with any network or production company.  The commentary is copyrighted by the author of this site and is therefore protected under all current statutes that apply.


Fair Use Law
17 U.S.C. 107(1988 & Supp. IV 1993) Section 107 provides in part.  Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phone records or by any other mans specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching(including multiple copies for classroom uses), scholarship, or research is not an infringement of copyright.  In determining whether the use of a work in particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include: 1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is a commercial nature or for nonprofit educational purposes; 2. The nature of the copyrighted work; 3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and 4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.


updated 9/13/2013
web master:  Doug Quick
copyright 2001-2013  Doug Quick