Note: What follows are excerpts from a much larger
body of work that I
hope to have published in book form soon. Many events of the
of Peoria Television has been omitted from this very abbreviated
history of Peoria television. This site concentrates on the first 10 years of Mid Illinois
Television, but I do include a very brief overview of the years from
1964 to the present.
In early April of
1952 it was announced
that the FCC would begin processing TV applications after a 45-month
freeze, on July 1, 1952. It was determined that applicants would be
granted an allocated channel for a community when there was no
competing applications for the same channel. I twas determined that
UHF stations would be given priority.
For Peoria, the
allocation table listed
channels available on VHF channel 8 as well as UHF channels 19 and
43, with channel 37 begin available for educational television use.
In June of 1952,
Company would apply for Peoria's channel 8. The proposed station
would have a power of 316-kw and would broadcast from a tower of
995-feet. The construction cost was given at $550,474 with a first
year operating cost of $320,000 and expecting the first year revenue
to be around $400,000. The Peoria Broadcasting Company studios were
listed as being at 212 South Jefferson with transmitter one mile
south of Groveland, Illinois. The transmitter was going to be a
DuMont model with a General Electric antenna. The applicant is
licensee of WMBD AM/FM with principals being Charles C. Caley, 25%
(general manger of WMBD AM/FM and 25% owner of WDZ Radio, Decatur,
Illinois); Carl P. Slane, 12.6% (president of the Peoria Journal
Transcript and Morning Star newspapers); Elizabeth P. Talbott, 31.2%
(director for the Peoria newspapers listed).
In January of 1953, a
for channel 8 was filed by a newly formed WMBD, Incorporated. The
group underwent a change in ownership during the last months of 1952
but the desire of a television property would continue. The major
changes to the initial application included the tower height now
listed as 543-feet, instead of 995-feet. The construction cost was
now listed as $538,369 with operating cost at $428,819 with proposed
revenue at $512,662. The principals were now listed as Charles
Caley, 66.67% (owner of WMBD AM/FM, 25% owner of WDZ Radio, Decatur,
Illinois); John Fetzer, 33.33% (52% owner of WKZO AM/TV,
Michigan and WJEF AM/FM Grand Rapids, Michigan). The application
sought FCC approval of the assignment of the license of WMBD Peoria
from the previous ownership, Peoria Broadcasting Company.
WMBD amended its
application in May of
1953 to increase the tower height to 996-feet and would also change
the tower/transmitter site to 3.3 miles south of Groveland, Illinois.
The following month,
Company would apply for channel 8. Its proposal would include a
station broadcasting with 92.4kw with an antenna/tower at 500-feet
about 4.5 miles south of Peoria on Cole Hollow Road. Both the
antenna and transmitter would be manufactured by RCA. The station
would cost $305,000 to build, and would cost $305,000 for the first
years operation. The revenue was expected to be around $346,320. This
channel 8 would operate from studios located at 115 N. Jefferson
in Peoria. The principals of WIRL included: Timothy W.l Swain, 22%
(president and 15% owner of Illinois Broadcasting Company, licensee
of WIRL Radio); Katherine A. Swain 22% (secretary and 15% owner of
WIRL Radio); Edward J. Altorfer, 22% (treasurer and director owning
15% of WIRL Radio); Paul C. Brines, 4% (director of TV-program
director of WIRL Radio, assistant general manager of WIRL Radio;
Rudolph Luukinen, 4% (chief engineer of WIRL Radio) and Thomas Gavin,
4% (general manager of WIRL Radio).
In June of 1953, the
channel 8 by WIRL would include some changes. Among those was the
tower height was changed to 992-feet and the studio site was listed
as 200 W. McClure Avenue in Peoria.
WEEK-TV was first to sign-on in Peoria and to claim NBC as it's primary
WTVH-TV took on CBS-TV as a secondary affiliate during the first year
of broadcasting. CBS was holding out on for a primary partnership
with VHF-Channel 8. After not seeing any progress with channel 8,
it signed with WTVH-TV as a primary affiliate through 1957.
WTVH-TV would become an exclusive ABC affiliate on January 1, 1958 when
CBS would move to the new WMBD-TV, Channel 31 on that date.
(Left) is a drawing published
Bloomington Daily Pantagraph in 1953 showing the differences in the
coverage areas of the central Illinois TV stations.
Note, the large area by central Illinois' only VHF commercial station
WCIA which actually touches the Peoria market. Also the
relatively small areas covered by the UHF stations, especially that of
WICS in Springfield which didn't even reach half way to Decatur!
Likewise, WTVP didn't reach Springfield and just barely reached Clinton
WBLN shared coverage with WCIA and WEEK for Bloomington. Also,
the differences between WTVH and WEEK's coverage areas were apparent
and helped to establish the dominance of WEEK in Peoria for decades.
The coverage area for WDAN-TV was not shown as it played little to no
significance to most of central Illinois.
(left): WEEK-TV general manager, Fred Mueller
(right): longtime WEEK chief engineer, Wayne Lovely (pictures from
WEEK delivers a good signal into Bloomington as reported by the
Bloomington Pantagraph. It also references the fact that if
channel 8 was granted, it would pose a strong threat to the success of
WEEK-TV and other UHF stations in Peoria.
All channel TV sets with both VHF and UHF tuners were required to
receive all of the potential TV signals across mid Illinois.
(ad from the Bloomington Pantagraph)
WEEK-TV studios pictured
in an ad for General Electric from Broadcasting-Telecasting magazine
Channel 43 would be
sought by yet
another potential owner. West Central Broadcasting Company, already
in operation as WEEK Radio, filed for channel 43 in early July. That
company would propose a station operating at 170kw from an antenna
546-feet with a total construction cost of $518,587 with first year
operating cost of $365,000 and expected first year revenue to be at
$390,000. The address for the company was listed as being306 N.
Robinson, Okahoma City, Oklahoma. The studio/transmitter location
was proposed at Springfield Hill Road (2907 Springfield Road) in
Groveland Township, Tazewell County. Both the transmitter and
antenna were listed as being General Electric models. The principals
were listed as U. S. Sen. Robert S. Kerr, 50.611% (U.S.
Senator-Democrat-Oklahoma, owner of KRMG and in oil and gas
business-Kerr-McGee Oil); T.M. Kerr, 11.141% (owner of KRMG and in
oil and gas business-Kerr-McGee); Geraldine H. Kerr, 3.235%, Fred
Mueller 5% (WEEK Radio general manager); C.B. Akers, 3% (5% owner of
KGLC, Miami Oklahoma and theater owner).
In mid July, Hilltop
applied for Channel 19. Hilltop was current licensee for WWXL Radio
already in operation in Peoria. The details of the application
listed the power output of the station at 90.8kw with an relatively
short tower/antenna height at 275-feet. The construction cost was
established at $155,000 with an operating cost of $155,000 and
revenue during its first year of operation was listed as $255,000. The
studio and transmitter was listed at 235 S. Jefferson (Jefferson
and Liberty Avenue) in downtown Peoria. The pricipals of Hilltop
were listed as President Jugh R. Norman (president and majority
stockholder of KSTT in Davenport, Iowa) and Walter F. Kean
(consulting radio engineer in Riverside, Illinois).
Grants Construction Permits
The first group to be
granted a license
was to West Central Broadcasting, the owners/operators of WEEK Radio
in Peoria. The studio location was updated to be at 2907 Springfield
Road in Groveland Township. The grant was issued in late August of
It would take the FCC
a few more months
to issue the next Peoria television station construction permit, but
by December of 1952, Hilltop Broadcasting, operators of WWXL Radio
were granted a permit to proceed with construction. Hilltop
Broadcasting chose the call letter of WTVH-TV for its proposed
television station. The call letters were approved by the FCC in mid
In January of 1953,
it was reported in
Broadcasting-Telecasting that WEEK was shipped another General
Electric Transmitter which included a “special” GE antenna. The
100w output of the original transmitter was going to be boosted to a
2kw unit with the addition of the second transmitter. C.B. Akers, one
of the minority owners stated that the stations transmitter building
was ready for installation of the transmitter and related
electronics. Meanwhile, the studio evidently was completed or near
complete while closed circuit training was occurring for station
personnel. It was also released WEEK-TV would be a primary NBC
affiliate but would offer at least some ABC and DuMont programs. Later
in the month, its affiliation with DuMont was announced by that
WEEK-TV was granted
authorization to operate commercially at 100watts of power from
January 27 to July 27, 1953. Fred C. Mueller, general manager of
WEEK-TV went on the air with commercial programming on February 1,
1953 just hours after receiving its special authorization to operate.
Mr. Mueller stated, “In the first place nothing at WEEK-TV is
makeshift or temporary. We have everything—studios, transmitter,
tower---permanently and correctly installed.” At the time WEEK-TV
was the first and only Peoria station on the air.
By mid February,
WEEK-TV would received
the shipment of the second General Electric transmitter which would
boost the power output of the transmitter from 100watts to 2kw giving
the station a more powerful signal at 175,000 watts and a signal
which radiates at 40 miles or more. Live network service was not
available yet, and according to C. B. Akers, all programming
broadcast on WEEK-TV was either from film or live programming from
the WEEK-TV studio. The station expected live network service by May
Modifies the Application
With the construction
of WTVH-TV well
underway, Hilltop made an attempt to move the site of the
transmitter/tower to a site in Creve Coeur, Illinois. In early May
the application was refused by the FCC sighting the move would
violate minimum channel separations.
The reason was the
distance and channel separation between channel 26 in Springfield and
its location at channel 19. No mention was made of the stations
proximity to WICS at channel 20. Later in June of 1953, the FCC did
grant a special temporary permit to locate the transmitter and studio
at Creve Coeur, the site of the current radio station WTVH-AM.
There was also a
granting of a request
to eliminate channel 26 from the Springfield allocation table and
move it to channel 66. The channel was designated for educational
purposes, but was never applied for or granted. So viewers north of
Springfield and south of Peoria would be dealing with co-channel
tuning issues between the two stations for years once the power
increases of both UHF stations would reach maximum outputs years
In August of 1953,
WTVH filed a request
to extend its completion date to February 17, 1954 as many stations
would do. Equipment rushes and delays forced many stations to delay
completion dates past their original projections. The FCC would only
issue so many extensions to prevent the possible profiteering which
was reported to take place in some markets as groups not intending to
put a station on the air would sell their permits to the highest
Moves to Increase Power
General Electric made
in late June of 1953 it was shipping a new 12kw UHF transmitter to
WEEK. This would allow the station in increase power even further
than the 175,000 watts it currently has. This would boost power to
around 225,000 watts.
Featured in Ad for General
In a June addition of
Broadcasting-Telecasting magazine, WEEK-TV was featured with several
stories about its successes. Reception reports were coming into the
station by the hundreds with reports of being seen up to 50 miles
from the transmitter. This with only a 100-watt transmitter with an
expected reception area of around 12-miles.
The ad includes a
statement by Fred C.
Mueller, general manager stating that in less than three months
“practically all program time on the station has been sold.” He
was looking forward to being hooked up to the NBC television network
live service on August 1, 1953. The ad also includes the story of
local television dealers who have been swamped by viewers for
requests to do UHF conversions on VHF only television sets. One
local dealer reported 2,400 converter sales from January 9 through
Goes on the Air
It was reported that
beginning to broadcast a test pattern on August 20, 1953 with plans
to proceed with commercial broadcasting on Thursday, September 1. The
announcement was made by Hugh R. Norman, WTVH president. Unfortunately,
no details about the sign-on were found, until later,
when a newspaper account in the Bloomington Pantagraph included the
story. The article also included more information about the owner of
WTVH-AM/TV, Hugh Norman. Mr. Norman was the son of Mrs G. H.
Brinegar of 303 W. Willow Street in Normal. His mother was married
to the late Mr. Norman senior until his death in 1933. He was a
former teacher at Illinois State Normal College for many years.
production director, Don
Roper said the station was equipped with a 1-kilowatt RCA transmitter
and antenna giving the station an effective radiated power of 24,000
watts. It was reported that reception of WTVH-TV in
Bloomington-Normal was poor. The program schedule of Channel 19
would begin at 5:30pm to around midnight on weekdays and Saturdays. The
Sunday schedule began at 12:45pm to around midnight. The
newspaper article also included the fact that WTVH-TV was of a much
lower power than the other Peoria station, WEEK-TV.
First Hearings for Peoria's
Channel 8 Scheduled
The first of what
would be a string of
hearings on the channel 8 applications would begin on October 12,
1953. Before it was to be held, WIRL had requested an indefinite
continuance for the hearing, but that petition was denied by the FCC.
Becomes ABC Primary Affiliate
WTVH was already
programming via kinescope from CBS, ABC and DuMont but in November of
1953, became a primary affiliate of the American Broadcasting
Company. This would put WTVH-TV in line for first choice of
programming from ABC, but also placing its affiliation with CBS and
DuMont into a secondary position.
It appears that CBS
was holding out in
its primary affiliation contract for the issuance of a permit for VHF
channel 8. Over the next few years, CBS would float in and out of
the programming schedule of WTVH-TV until such time it would latch
onto another UHF station later in the decade. Politics were probably
the reason for the fact that CBS didn't immediately seek affiliation
with WTVH-TV. One of the applicants was WMBD Radio, by that time a
heritage CBS radio affiliate. That allowed WMBD some leverage for
the network if it was to receive the grant for channel 8, or even
some future allocation on the UHF band. The ABC primary affiliation
was only temporary as CBS would soon become the primary network for a
Channel 19, WTVH-TV
was finally granted
a modified construction permit to change the power output of the
station to an effective radiated power of 97.7kw from a tower at
280-feet. The location of the studio,transmitter and tower were now
approved to be at a permanent location at the corner of Stewart and
Leonard Streets, Creve Coeur, Illinois. This would make WTVH-TV
very limited compared with its direct competition, WEEK-TV with a
power output more than twice that of Channel 19 from a tower twice as
By April of 1954, it
that WTVH-TV was number two, in a two station race for Peoria area
viewers and advertisers. Hilltop appeared to be faltering, with both
the radio and television properties loosing ground to WEEK and
It was just a short
time earlier that
the two Peoria newspapers were merging. The Morning Star and the
afternoon Journal would merge under one roof plus purchase a majority
share in Hilltop Broadcasting. Hilltop was owned by Hugh R. Norman
and L.W. Hicks who held 55% interest with the Peoria Journal holding
36% interest with the rest of the shares being held by a few minority
In May of 1954 the
FCC would approve
the transaction. The newly formed Peoria Journal-Star would purchase
55% of the shares from Mr. Norman and Mr. Hicks. Both former
stockholders would receive $55,000 each and the newspaper would
assume liabilities of $155,000. This would give the Peoria
Journal-Star 91% of the stock of the radio and television properties.
WTVH Radio (1590 kc) was an affiliate of the Mutual Broadcasting
System, while WTVH-TV was listed as being an affiliate of ABC, CBS
and DuMont. After the sale, the company name of Hilltop Broadcasting
Pantagraph reported WTVH had gone on the air with a low powered signal.
Dage equipment was a low cost, lower quality video product which fit
the budgets of many first time broadcasters. They were used by
WTVH and at WDAN-TV. (ad from
Don McNeill's Breakfast Club aired on ABC weekday mornings from 8 to
9am live from Chicago. Many stations aired the program, then
signed off until later in the afternoon. WTVH-TV was one of those
along with orhers in Mid-Illinois including WTVP, WBLN and possibly
"Portia Faces Life" originated on radio in 1941, as many of the first
daytime serials did. It was one of the many daytime serials which
were broadcast on CBS thorughout the years. In Peoria it was seen
Richard Boone starred in one of the first medical anthology
dramas. It aired on NBC and was seen in Peoria on WEEK-TV.
John Cameron Swayze was the anchor of the NBC News Caravan sponsored by
Plymouth (Chrysler Corporation).
It was a combination of movie news reel production and a studio
newscast. The News Caravan was seen on WEEK-TV.
The Dinah Shore Chevy Show was broadcast on NBC and WEEK-TV. It
was one of the few variety shows hosted by a female.
The "Tennessee Ernie Ford Show" was part of the daytime schedule of NBC
and WEEK-TV. It was a variety show which included comedy
skits and a variety of music.
"Climax" was an hour long live dramatic anthology series which aired on
CBS from 1954-1958. Initially it was broadcast on WTVH-TV while
it was a primary CBS affiliate.
"The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriot" was the longest running live
action sit com having been on television from 1952 to 1966. Even
though it was distributed on ABC to affiliates, many ABC affiliated
stations were overlooked as the advertising company who
represented its main sponsors Coca-Cola and Kodak would sometimes
purchase time on competing higher rated stations. That was the
case in Decatur with WTVP, but in Peoria, the long running show was
seen on WTVH-TV.
Arthur Godfrey was a fixture at CBS from the 1930s into the early
1960s. At one time he was a part of three prime time shows a
week! Here is a sample of "The Arthur Godfrey Show" as seen on
CBS and WTVH-TV while it was still a primary CBS affiliate before
January 1, 1958.
(all videos are from You Tube and may be withdrawn at any time)
Peoria TV Listings
from Monday, September 13, 1954 as listed in TV Guide
43, Peoria (NBC, ABC)
Morning Show-CBS, News/Talk/Variety
Dong School-NBC, Children
Moore Show-CBS, Variety
Faces Life-CBS, Serial
of Life-CBS, Serial
for Tomorrow-CBS, Serial
is Fun with Ruth Ewan-local, cooking
Big Payoff-NBC, Game
Man's Family-NBC, Serial
Senator Speaks-Syn, hosted by Illinois Senators Dirkson(Rep) and
Gun Theater-syndicated, western serials
with Bob Arthur-local, newscast
Weather with Bob Houlihan-local, weathercast
Martin Show-CBS, musical variety
News Caravan with John Cameron Swayze-NBC, newcast
The signing of the contract for advertising on the WTVH newscasts by
Standard Oil. (from
Jerry Dunphy would anchor the Standard Oil "News Roundup" on WTVH-TV on
Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 10pm.
(from TV Guide, the Doug Quick Collection)
DuMont programming was
sparse and brief but what few programs were offered ended up on both
WEEK-TV and WTVH-TV. (Doug Quick Collection)
The Standard Oil
News Roundup was a syndicated newsreel service carried on many local
TV stations in the eastern half of the country. In July of 1954,
WTVH-TV signed on to broadcast the newsreel sponsored by the Standard
Oil Company. It would air three times a week. The signing would
take place before a camera which captured the event. It would be
attended by John Leslie, WTVH sales manager, C. H. Coughlin, Standard
Oil Peoria field manager, John Smith, local Standard advertising rep
and Jerry Dunphy, WTVH-TV news-special events director.
Changes at WTVH-TV
In early August of
1954, a number of
new appointments were made to management positions at WTVH-TV. Edward
G. Smith was named general manager, Robert L. Jawer was
appointed assistant general manager. The appointments were announced
by Henry P. Slane president of Hilltop Broadcasting Company. John
Leslie, acting general manager was named local sales manager,
succeeding Donald G. Roper who was promoted to program manager.
Comes to WEEK-TV
CBS-TV affiliates in
81 markets in the
country were announced to being ready to be “color ready” by
January 1, 1955. Among those either primary or secondary affiliates
included WEEK-TV. WEEK-TV was a primary affiliate of NBC and listed
as a secondary affiliate of CBS along with WTVH-TV. This color
conversion would only include color broadcasts from the network while
live local origination or films were not able to be broadcast in
color without further conversion of studio equipment. Full color
capabilities would not occur for most stations until 10-15 years
Increases Power and Becomes
a CBS Affiliate
WTVH-TV would apply
for and would
receive a permit to increase power in August of 1954 to 214kw which
would bring a stronger signal within its coverage area, but it would
continue to broadcast from a relatively short tower/antenna at only
The following month,
on the heals of
WEEK-TV announcing its capability to broadcast CBS network color
programs locally in color, WTVH-TV would pull the rug out from under
Channel 43. In mid September of 1954, WTVH-TV signed on with the CBS
Television Network as a primary interconnected affiliate effective
immediately. This change in primary affiliation would place
programming from ABC in a secondary level of prominence when it came
to the schedules. This move would more than likely increase network
compensation to the station while locking in the leading television
network for the station, and reducing its syndicated programming
costs. CBS offered a full slate of programs from morning to night,
whereas ABC had only a limited, mostly late afternoon to prime time
Ownership Changes its Name
In late September of
ownership of WEEK AM/TV would change its corporate name. From West
Central Broadcasting Company, to All Oklahoma Broadcasting Company,
an Oklahoma corporation. There were no changes in ownership involved
in the company name change.
WTVH Increases Power
With the installation
of a new RCA
12.5kw transmitter, WTVH-TV would go from 24kw to 214kw of effective
radiated power. The increase of power took place on November 6, 1954
with the throwing of the switch by Henry P. Slane, president of
Hilltop Broadcasting. At the same time, WTVH-TV was celebrating its
first year of broadcasting and added CBS as the primary television
network. Mr. Slane also announced the plans of an ultra modern
studio and the renovating of its present facility to include the
installation of a Vidicon film chain and color TV equipment. The
station was also adding AP Photofax and CBS Newsfilm to its ability
to broadcast news programming.
Got Network Color
A poll of Illinois
listed both WEEK-TV and WTVH-TV as having the capabilities to pass
network color programming in color. As stated above it would be many
years before the stations would have the equipment necessary to
broadcast color video from their studios either live programming or
via film. Video tape was still 5 years away for most stations, and
color video tape even further in the future.
Denies an Attempt by WEEK-TV and
WTVH-TV to Delay Hearings on Channel 8
In May of 1955, it
was announced that a
petition filed by the parent companies of WEEK-TV and WTVH-TV asking
the FCC to postpone oral arguments on the applications of WMBD Inc.
and WIRL Television Company. The hearings were scheduled for May 2,
Gets New Tower with a Power
In August of 1955,
another major investment in its future with the purchase of a 1000
foot tower to which a new antenna would be mounted. According to
Hilltop Broadcasting’s Edward G. Smith, general manager the tower
and antenna would be “the highest man-made structure above ground
in Illinois.” The tower would be constructed in sections by
Dresser-Ideco Company fo Columbus, Ohio and would be located at the
site of the current 240-foot tower at Creve Coeur, Illinois.
The station will also
install a new RCA
transmitter which will increase the effective radiated power to
500kw. This improvement of facilities, as well as being the primary
CBS affiliate in the market, would certainly help make the station a
major player in central Illinois broadcasting.
The following month
WTVH-TV was seeking
modification of its construction permit to change the effective
radiated power to 171kw from a new 1055-foot tower. The installation
of its transmitter to allow it to to a half-million watts was still
In October, there
seemed to be a change
in the expansion of the WTVH-TV in regards to its new 1000-foot tower
and its power output. With no explanation WTVH-TV amended its
application to change the effective radiated power to 188.kw an an
antenna height at 608-feet. The October 24, 1955 edition of
Broadcasting-Telecasting reported that the FCC granted the last
request for the latest application.
Specs and Grant
In early July, WIRL
would be granted
channel 8 for Peoria. At the time of the grant, the proposed channel
8 would operate at 316kw and broadcast from an antenna/tower at 991
feet above average terrain. The transmitter, antenna combo would be
manufactured by RCA. Once again, though, the FCC forbids the
construction of the facility, pending new rule making which could
eliminate channel 8. The Commission held the option of substituting
a UHF channel in its place if channel 8 was eliminated from the
allocation table for Peoria. The call letters of WIRL-TV were
granted to channel 8 later in July of 1956.
Later in July, WIRL
would petition the
FCC to keep Peoria VHF channel. WIRL-TV asked the FCC to reconsider
the rule making proposal to move the allocation to the Quad Cities
(Rock Island, Illinois). The ownership of WIRL-TV stated that Peoria
needs VHF service whereas Rock Island is already served by two VHF
stations, WHBF-TV, Channel 4 and WOC-TV, Channel 6. A request to
reconsider the prohibition against construction was also included in
Makes Another Upgrade
construction of a new
tower the previous year, once again WTVH-TV was filing for a new
construction permit to allow for another power increase to 186kw and
to make changes to antenna and other equipment changes. With the
approval, WTVH-TV ordered a new high gain UHF antenna from RCA.
By August WTVH made
announcement of its intent to boost its power from 214kw to 500kw
during the Fall of '56 after the installation of its new high gain
The "Movie Quick Quiz"
from 1954 (TV Guide from the Doug
The syndicated medical drama "Ella Raines" was also called "Janet Dean"
in some areas. (TV Guide
from the Doug Quick Collection)
ABC aired the Miss America pageant in 1954 and was broadcast on mid
Illinois ABC affiliates including WTVH, Channel 19.
(TV Guide from the Doug Quick Collection)
"New York Confidential" was a syndicated crime drama and aired on
WTVH-TV during the mid to late 1950s. (TV Guide Ad from the Doug
"Your Are There" was a production of CBS and was aired on WEEK-TV in
1954. It was hosted by Walter Cronkite.
(TV Guide Ad from the Doug Quick Collection)
Numerous syndicated TV shows were available through the NTA, an
unwired network of independent productions which were available for
subscribing television stations. "Captain Grief" was one of those
TV shows and aired on WTVH-TV. (TV Guide Ad
from the Doug Quick Collection)
"Four Star Playhouse" was broadcast on CBS, but was shown on WEEK-TV in
1954. (TV Guide Ad from the
Doug Quick Collection)
"Maverick" aired on WTVH after it became a primary ABC affiliate in
(TV Guide Ad from the Doug Quick Collection)
WEEK-TV logo 1958
(TV Guide Ad from the Doug Quick Collection)
The Price is Right was seen in primetime on NBC and WEEK-TV as well as
all of the other Mid-Illinois TV stations.
(TV Guide Ad from Doug Quick Collection)
Applies for a Satellite
of UHF broadcasting
stations were obvious as the range of coverage was extremely limited
and the development of high powered UHF transmitters was still a few
years away. If a station wanted to bring a city grade signal to a
fringe market to add households of coverage, the use of a satellite
station would be necessary.
to improve its signal
over LaSalle, Illinois to the north near the Illinois River, 50 miles
northeast of Peoria. The satellite would be a full-powered satellite
operating at 18.8kw from a tower 431-feet above above average
terrain. The cost of construction was listed as $73,750.
In February of
1957, WEEK-TV received
an FCC grant to own and operate a UHF satellite station which would
operate on channel 35. It was granted to have an effective radiated
power of 14.3kw and an antenna/tower height of 437-feet. It would
have the call letters WEEQ(TV).
The new 1957, WEEK-TV broadcast tower, next to its former tower.
Picture coming soon
Chick Hearn former WEEK-TV sportscaster
(from TV Guide and the Doug Quick Collection)
Prominent Sportscaster Leaves
One of the more
from WEEK-TV, Chick Hearn, would leave that station and move to a new
position in Los Angeles at KNX. His role of sports director in
Peoria would take him to do play by play for all of the University
of Southern California football games during the 1956 season.
Chick Hearn would be
WEEK-TV sportscaster Hank Fisher.
"The Secret Storm" began its run in 1954 on CBS and was shown on
WTVH-TV as its second year of operation through late 1957 was spent as
a CBS primary station.
Clint Estwood starred with Eric Fleming as regulars on this mostly
western anthology series which ran on CBS from 1959 to 1966. It
aired on WMBD-TV.
Bill Cullen was the game show master of ceremonies for "The Price is
Right" when it originally aired on NBC daytime and in prime time.
The announcer was Don Pardo who also announced Saturday Night Live well
inot his 90s. This particular episode was shown on WEEK-TV in
"The Kraft Music Hall" was more than just music....it was about comedy
and cheese recipes. This particular one was hosted by MIlton
Berle and is a kinescope of an originally live color broadcast.
Warner Brothers produced a number of series for ABC including "77
Sunset Strip." The WB shows were all "hip" with young attractive
stars who attracted a young audience helping ABC become the "young
people's network." WTVH-TV benefited greatly with the renaissance
of ABC programming of the late 1950s and ealry 1960s.
"Tic Tac Dough" was an NBC daytime and prime time
game show. This particular one is from a prime time 1958
installment. It aired on WEEK-TV
(all videos are from You Tube and may be withdrawn at any time)
Dick Vance, WEEK-TV personality hosted Channel 43's "Rock n Roll Party"
every Saturday afternoon. This is from June of 1957.
WTVH-TV weathercaster Hoyle from a TV Guide
edition from June 1958.
Dick and Bev Vance hosted the daytime local production of "Coffee Time"
This TV Guide is from June of 1957.
WTVH-TV advertising the fact that even though it was a UHF station, it
wasn't competing with any VHF stations in the market....and that Peoria
was out of range of other VHF markets like Chicago, Rock Island, St.
Louis and Quincy.
NBC broadcasts of the World Series of Baseball was broadcast on WEEK-TV
along with other MId-Illinois NBC stations, WOC-TV, Quad Cities and
(all TV Guide Ads are from the Doug Quick Collection)
The advertising agency which controlled the placing of "Zorro" allowed
ABC to distribute the Disney adventure series on KTVI, Channel 2, St.
Louis and in Peoria on WTVH-TV. WTVP-TV in Decatur was omitted
from the buy, instead placing the series on WICS which broadcast a film
of the network feed at a later time. (see WICS)
Peoria TV Listings
from Friday, November 22, 1957 as listed in TV Guide
Channel 43, Peoria (NBC, ABC)
is Right-NBC, game
or Consequences-NBC, game/stunts
Tac Dough-NBC, game
Could Be You-NBC, game
'n Trim-local, exercise
Time with Dick and Bev Vance-local, variety/talk
and Groom-NBC, reality show of real weddings
Theater -"There Won't Be Any Trouble"-NBC, movie
for a Day-NBC, quiz
Time "Blondie"-NBC, sitcoms (mix of off network series)
Blackie-syn, crime drama
of Last Resort-NBC, legal drama
Kane-syndicated, crime drama
Man-NBC, crime drama
Blackie-syndicated, crime drama
Show with Jack Paar-NBC, Variety/Talk
WTVH-TV, Channel 19, Peoria (CBS, ABC, DuMont)
of Night-CBS, Serial (may have been a CBS kinescope)
Movie, syndicated, movie
is Yours-CBS, legal reinactments
Bandstand with Dick Clark-ABC, dance, music vareity
Mouse Club-ABC, children
Tin Tin-ABC, adventrure
Munsell-ABC, Variety, Music
Sinatra Show-ABC, musical variety
With the Angels-ABC, sit com
Choice-Syn, sit com
Playhouse-movie "Congo Maisie"-syn, movie
FCC Makes a Decision on Channel
On Feburary 28, 1957,
the FCC would
decide that the allocation of channel 8 would be moved to the Quad
Cities (Rock Island, Illinois). The move was made on a 4 to 3 vote
of FCC commissioners. Along with the decision to move channel 8, a
move to assign another UHF allocation to the Peoria allocation table
was approved. Channel 25 would added to the available channels. It
was assumed that WIRL-TV would apply for channel 25 and it would be
immediately granted and approved to begin construction. The other
addition to the Peoria allocation table was for channel 31 as well.
Announces Upgrade in Light
of Channel 8 Decision
by the FCC for Peoria, the ownership of WTVH-TV announced plans for a
significant upgrade to the station. A $100,000 investment was being
planned to include the installation of a new high gain UHF antenna at
the present tower height at 660-feet which would give Channel 19 an
effective radiated power of 1-million watts (1000kw). The antenna
would come from RCA.
Receives Grant for Channel
As part of the move
of channel 8 from
Peoria, WIRL-TV was granted permission to build a television station
as projected, with a change of channel. The VHF station applied for
and granted with a prohibition of construction was now changed by the
FCC to a UHF station at channel 25 and allowed for the building to
With the granting for
channel 25, the
FCC also expected there would be appeals and the probability of court
fights from those left out of the FCC decision. The commissioners
were right, as attorneys for WIRL-TV were said to be working on an
By late March, 1957,
the first owner
group whose channel was decided on by the FCC to be relocated went to
court asking that the FCC decision be reversed. The WIRL-TV appeal
also included a demand that the court order an immediate stay against
the FCC's implementation of is de-intermixture actions.
WIRL-TV claimed it
had been granted
channel 8 after four years and accruing costs of $50,000. The Appeal
was filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington on the
February 28, 1957 action by the FCC.
By May, 17, 1957,
WIRL-TV would lose
another round in its appeal of the FCC decision from February. The
court denied the WIRL-TV claim on channel 8 and agreed with the FCC
that the “instant grant” of channel 25 was an appropriate action
to replace the original grant for channel 8.
Back when TV Guide was
relevant to local television broadcasters and viewers, it
would publish news about the local television stations, personalities
and programs. At right is an example of such local news from the
TV Guide edition December 21, 1957.
It includes news about the new WMBD-TV going on the air January 1, 1958
and the result in the cut backs at WTVH-TV and the elimination of local
newscasts to be replaced by short local cut-ins of just a couple of
(from TV Guide and the Doug Quick Collection)
Plans Broadcasting on
announcement of the final FCC
decision on the channel 8 move and the establishing of channel 31 as
an added channel to the Peoria allocation table, WMBD, Incorporated
would apply again for a television station. This time for the new
channel 31 position. The proposed television station would end up
broadcasting with an initial power of 288 kw from an antenna/tower
620-feet above average terrain. This was far short of the initial
publicized specs of the station.
The studio would be
with the current
radio stations at the site of the former Majestic Theatre built in
1906. The theater was closed in 1946, then put into use as a
broadcast studio for the radio stations.
In July, it was
announced that the new
Channel 31 would go on the air as an interconnected primary affiliate
of CBS. The news came from Edward P. Shurick, CBS-TV network
vice-president and director of station relations.
In September of 1957,
Robert O. Runnerstrom, vice-president and station manager, would sign
a contract with E.C. Tracy, RCA broadcast equipment manager for a
25kw tranmitter along with a high gain antenna which would give
Channel 31 a one-million watt (1000kw) effective radiated power. The
contract also included a studio equipment package worth a $500,000.
Staffing the new
Peoria station was
underway with the November announcement of the hiring of Gordon F.
Max as the stations new production manager. He previously had the
same title at WREX-TV in Memphis, Tennessee. Charles Harrision was
added as news director having been hired from WCKT(TV), Miami,
Florida. Also in late 1957, W.P. “Win” Baker was appointed
program director at WMBD-TV.
The former promotion
WNDU-TV, South Bend, Indiana, Joseph Franzgrote was hired as
promotions director at Channel 31. James J. Johston, the continuity
director at KTVH(TV), Hutchison, Kansas was appointed operations
manager. Jack Sawyer, producer-director at WLWA(TV), Atlanta,
Georgia and Brian Scruby a producer-director WTOP-TV, Washington,
D.C. was hired as producer-directors.
This was the first
listing for WMBD-TV, Channel 31 as it signed on officially at 6pm on
New Years Day, 1958, at 6pm with a "Dedication Program" followed by "I
Love Luch" at 7pm. (TV Guide listing from
the Doug Quick Collection)
Goes On the Air
An ad published in
Broadcasting-Telecasting stated that WMBD-TV was currently on the air
with a test pattern getting ready for its initial commercial
broadcast set for January 12, 1958.
At sign-on the
included: Charles C. Caley; president, Robert O. Runnerstrom;
vice-president, Robert M. Riley, Jr. sales manager; Samuel F.
Jackson, national sales manager; Winthrop P. Baker, Jr., program
director and film buyer; Charles F. Harrison, Jr., news-director and
George A. Pyle as chief engineer.
On January 1, 1958,
WMBD-TV, would go
on the air at 6pm broadcasting a half hour dedicatory program with
Charles Caley and Robert Runnerstrm along with introductions of the
talent lineup of the station, as well as a short sample of news,
sports and weather before proceeding with the CBS prime time
schedule. At 6:30pm, there was a ceremony with George Pyle, the
chief engineer flipping the switch to bring CBS to air. The first
CBS show that aired on Channel 31 was “I Love Lucy.”
The transition from
WTVH-TV to WMBD-TV
for CBS was interesting. The sign-on for WMBD-TV wasn't until 6pm,
and as you might know, New Years Day is full of parades and football.
And New Years Day 1958 on CBS was no exception. The daytime
schedule of WTVH-TV included those CBS programs including a New Years
Day Parade and football game the rest of the afternoon. When WMBD-TV
signed on, the rest of the CBS schedule for that day would transfer
to Channel 31. There were exceptions, as several CBS shows would
still continue for several weeks on WTVH-TV, not appearing on WMBD-TV
A full page TV Guide Ad for the announcement at WMBD-TV was in busines
for the Peoria area and would broadcast CBS programs.
(from TV Guide and the Doug Quick Collection)
When WMBD-TV went on the air on Janurary 1, 1958,
the station when on with a major amount of promotion including many TV
Guide ads during the early months of 1958. Here are a few of
those with the personalities of Channel 31's first generation.
(TV Guide Ads from the Doug Quick Collection)
Martin Milner and George Maharis stared in "Route 66" on CBS and
WMBD-TV from 1960 to 1964.
"Bachelor Father" was one of the unique shows of the modern era as it
was seen on all three networks during its run from 1957 to 1962.
John Forsythe and Noreen Corcoran along wtih Sammee Tong starred. This
particular edition was seen on ABC and WTVH-TV.
Gene Barry starred as "Bat Masternson" on NBC and WEEK-TV from 1958 to
"Laramie" aired on NBC and WEEK-TV from 1959 to 1963 and starred John
Smith, Robert Fuller and other regulars which changed during the run of
the series. It was an hour long series and was noted as the NBC
show which introduced the "modern" NBC peacock which would introduce
all NBC color programs through the early 1970s. The peacock
version was called the "Laramie peacock."
Perry Mason had its start as a series of books by Erle Stanley Gardner,
it was also a movie series, radio drama and in 1957 it became a TV
series on CBS where it would continue through 1966, only to reappear
during the late 1980s. During its 1957 run it was seen on
WTVH-TV, then would shift with CBS to WMBD-TV in January of 1958.
This was another Warner Brothers production, "The Roaring 20s" aired on
ABC and WTVH-TV from 1960 to 1962. It starred Dorothy Provine,
Donald May, Rex Reason, John Dehner, Gary Vinson and Mike Road (the
voice of Race Bannon on "Jonny Quest"). This is one series I'd
love to see return somewhere!!
NBC Peacock as seen in 1957 on WEEK-TV.
rotation of syndicated sit coms being VJ'd by John Fisher on WMBD-TV
Connor anchored news on WEEK-TV morning to night.
Masterson" aired on NBC and WEEK-TV
In 1962 TV-43 and TV-35(WEEQ-TV) were broadcasting some of the Hanna
Barbara's most popular animated series at 5pm "right after Captain
The Sunday night news at 9:30 pm-10pm with Tom Connor, Bill Houlihan
and Hank Fisher. This is from 1958.
Syndicated programs on WEEK-TV included "Mackenzie's Raiders" starrting
Richard Carlson, Sunday nights at 10:30.
(all TV Guide Ads from the Doug Quick Collection)
After CBS moved to WMBD-TV, WTVH incorporated the ABC "large A" logo
into its station branding. (TV Guide AD from
February of 1958 and the Doug Quick
WTVH-TV aired syndicated movies after its shortened local newscast at
10pm. Formerly the movie started at 10:30pm, then was moved to
10:15pm. (TV Guide Ad from
Februrary 1958 and the Doug Quick
After loosing CBS, WTVH used syndicated movies to fill some of the
daytime hours vacated by CBS daytime programming. ABC didn't fill
out its daytime schedule until the period from 1959 to 1961. (TV Guide Ad from
November of 1958 and the Doug Quick Collection)
The WTVH-TV logo and channel number font style which was adopted after
the sale to Metropolitan. (from TV Guide Ad and the
Doug Quick Collection)
Adjusts Operation After Losing CBS
on TV Guide programming and local news items from 1957 to 1958,
WTVH-TV appeared to go through a trying time financially. Many local
newscasts were eliminated with the probable lay-offs of many members
of the staff. The downturn likely had a lot ot do with the loss of
network compensation from CBS broadcasts. With assuming primary
network affiliation with ABC would not have the same revenue stream
that that of CBS compensation.
broadcast day was reduced considerably. Formerly WTVH-TV would sign
on at 7am with the former CBS Morning Show, then later sign-on was
moved back to 8am with Captain Kangaroo. Just a few weeks after the
sign-on of WMBD-TV and the loss of CBS daytime programming, WTVH-TV
would delay its weekday sign-on to 3:55pm with the broadcast of a
short local newscast. Programming would begin with ABC's American
Bandstand. Interesting, though, is that the TV Guide listings had
WTVH-TV inserting two short local newscasts during American Bandstand
at 4:30pm and again at 4:55pm. The stations 10pm newscast was also
reduced to 15-minutes. This reduction in the broadcast day would
continue until ABC began to expand its daytime schedule. In May of
1959, listings showed WTVH-TV sign-on was listed as Noon with the ABC
variety show “George Hamilton IV,” “Play Your Hunch,” “Music
Bingo,” “Day in Court,” “The Gale Storm Show” and “Beat
the Clock.” Also, in May of 1959, there were no listings for local
newscasts from WTVH-TV. The late movie “Lamplighter Playhouse”
began at 10pm. This
elimination of local news from this Peoria television station would
set the stage for local news rating struggles for years.
with the ownership of the Peoria Journal-Star, WTVH-TV found the the
going difficult. It was prime for sale. It appeared that Hilltop
and its owner the Peoria Journal-Star would try to reduce the
expenses enough to make it look favorable for a future sale.
Sold to Metropolitan
In late October of
1959, the sale of
WTVH-TV by the Peoria-Journal Star to Metropolitan Broadcasting was
announced. The sale price was listed as $600,000. This would be the
third television property for Metropolitan which also owned radio
properties. To put the price of WTVH-TV in perspective, the company
also purchased WIP AM/FM in Philadelphia for $4.5-million!
headed by John W.
Kluge as president and principal stockholder. Bennett H. Korn was
vice-president in charge of TV operations. Kluge and his associates
took over ownership of Metropolitan early in January of 1959 by
purchasing the shares of Paramount Pictures 21.75% interest for
To see more about the
future of Metropolitan, see the chapter of the history of WTVP(TV),
Channel 17 in Decatur. Metropolitan would purchase the Decatur
station by early 1960, tying the operations of both stations
The sale of WTVH-TV
Broadcasting and its primary ownership of the Peoria-Journal Star to
Metropolitan would be approved by November of 1959.
In February of 1960,
WTVH-TV would be
appointed a new general manager. Donn Colee who was general manager
of WLOF-TV, Orlando, Florida was named to the position. He came with
a sales manager as well. Mr. Colee wife, Lee was named as director
of sales also from WLOF-TV where she had the same position there.
8 Controversy Still Alive
Even with the sale of
WEEK Radio, the
WEEK-TV Incorporated group appeared to be still alive as the the
Peoria case was remanded back to the FCC by the US Appeals Court in
Washington, D.C.. This occurred just four days after the same action
took place for the channel 2 situation in Springfield.
The shift of channel
8 to Moline (Rock
Island, Illinois) at the time had 5 groups all applying for the
allocation for the VHF station. That shift was appealed to the
Supreme Court, but sent back to the US Court of Appeals. The courts
then returned it to the FCC but retained jurisdiction in the case. The
argument made by WIRL-TV was that the owner of WEEK-TV, Senator
Robert S. Kerr (D-Oklahoma) had pressured the FCC to move the
allocation. The judges presiding over the case included: E. Barrett
Prettyman, chief judge along with Charles Fahy and Warren E. Burger.
Sold to Midwest
In March of 1960 the
for the sale of the WMBD radio and television properties from WMBD,
Incorporated to Midwest Television, Incorporated. The sale price for
the AM/FM/TV combo was $1,850,000 for all assets. Midwest would also
pay $229,000 to Charles C. Caley for an agreement not to compete and
to serve as a consultant.
By now, or at least
after reviewing the
story of WCIA, you're familier with the principals of Midwest
Television. They include: August C. Meyer and wife, 51%; Helen M.
Stevick, 10%; Marajean Stevick Chinigo, 10%; Illinois Broadcasting
Company 20% and six other stockholders, none with more than 5%. Those
principals of Illinois Broadcasting Company include those
stockholders with WSOY AM/FM, Decatur, Illinois; the Decatur
Herald-Review newspaper. Other holdings of stockholders from Midwest
Television include principals of the Champaign News-Gazette newspaper
and WDWS AM/FM.
associated with the radio
properties, WMBD AM, 1470kc at 5kw and WMBD-FM, 92.5 at 2.5kw. All
stations were affiliates of CBS Radio and Television.
former Majestic Theater, later becoming the home of WMBD-AM/FM/TV on
Southwest Jefferson in downtown Peoria. The photo was taken for the
20th Anniversary of WMBD Radio in 1957, right before the sign-on of
WMBD-TV on New Years Day 1958. (Photo from the Ron Moses
WIRL-TV Story Continues
In April of 1961, the
fight for channel
8 in Peoria was still underway, at least with the remnants of
WIRL-TV, Incorporated. A request was filed with the FCC to ignore
the request of an immediate oral argument deadlines filed by all of
the applicants for channel 8 to operate in the Quad Cities (Moline,
WIRL-TV was waiting
for the final
outcome of the FCCs move of channel 2 from Springfield to St. Louis.
The Peoria group described itself as a “veteran of one of the most
bitter and longest hearings in the history of the Commission.” It
went on to tell of its grant for VHF channel 8 that the company
deserved because of its fight to earn it the “hard and American
The channel 8
applicants were hoping to
finalize the grant before the Peoria deintermixture ruling was
decided, thus eliminating the chance for WIRL-TV to receive the
allocation for Peoria.
8 Favored Grantee Overturned
In early June of
1961, the FCC heard
oral arguments in the channel 8 case which would be located in the
Quad Cities (Moline, Illinois). The results were announced a few
weeks later that reversed the examiner's decision favoring Community
Telecasting Corporation for channel 8 in the Quad Cities. The FCC
reversed the decision by Charles J. Frederick, the FCC examiner, and
indicated a preference for Moline Television Corporation.
The principals of
includes: Francis J. Coyle (12.5%); Victor B. Day (10%); David
Parson (10%); Frank P. Schreiver (10%); Charles C. Agnew (5%); L.S.
Helfrich (5%); and Samuel M. Gilman (5%), with the remaining
interests divided with 15 others.
The other three
consideration were: Illiway Television Incorporated, Midland
Broadcasting Company and Tele-View News, Incorporated. The oral
argumnets took place on June 2, 1961.
At this decision the
four other losing
candidates filed a joint petition for another hearing to take place
offering the groups to make another presentation on their behalf, but
also point out the alleged flaws in the presentation of Moline
Television. By late September of 1961, the FCC denied the request
for a re-argument in the channel 8 case. The other applicants
described the action of the FCC as “wholly incredible” because
they felt that Moline Television did not survey local programming
needs as part of its application.
The FCC said the
joint petition was
entitled to “no meritorious consideration” since the release
which prompted the petition was just a preliminary decision and not
the final FCC decision. This action by the FCC was also attacked in
Congress by Representative Robert Michael (Rep-Illinois) calling it a
ABC News Special "American Newstand"
broadcast on November 29, 1961.
"Stagecoach West" was broadcast on ABC and WTVH-TV.
WEEK-TV and NBC broadcast "Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color."
An installment of "The Red Skelton Show" from 1960 aired on CBS and
One of the strangest concepts for a TV series was "Sing A Long With
Mitch" starring Mitch Miller on NBC and WEEK-TV.
Before he hosted his night time talk show on ABC, he was on NBC in a
sit com. Here is an example of the series from NBC and broadcast
Expands Its Reach
Like fellow Peoria
WTVH-TV would try to reach the extreme northern edge of its viewing
area with the addition of a translator station in the LaSalle, Peru,
Ottawa and Streater, Illinois cities. The translator would broadcast
on channel 78 and would be known as W-78-AC. It differs from the
WEEQ-TV translator, in that is considered to be a lower powered
station giving it the special designated call letters.
8 Arguments Continue
The long involved
stormy history of the
channel 8 controversy continued into 1962, when Community Telecasting
Corporation, one of the five applicants for the allocation of the
Quad Cities channel asked the FCC to reopen the record and hold new
arguments on who should be granted the channel. The FCC seemingly
ignored the request and demanded an end to the controversy with the
order of a document which would finalize the grant of channel 8 to
the Moline Television Corporation.
In mid-May of 1962,
the FCC awarded the
allocation for channel 8 assigned to Moline, Illinois to Moline
Television Corporation. The award was said to be assigned to Moline
TV based on the experience of Frank P. Schreiber, who was listed as
the president and 10% owner of the company. Mr. Schreiber was a
former director of the Mutual Broadcasting Company, the radio
network. He had also spent 15 years with WGN and was a former
director of WPIX in New York. The FCC would contradict the original
selection made by Charles Frederick, hearing examiner. Mr. Frederick
favored the Community Telecasting Corporation for the valuable VHF
The new VHF
television station was
approved for an effective radiated power of 316kw with an antenna at
1,000-feet. The cost of construction was listed at $772,363 with
first year operating cost at 625,000. Its first year revenue was set
at $765,000. The new Channel 8 would broadcast from its location
near Orion, Illinois with an RCA TT-25BH transmitter and an RCA
TW-18A8 antenna system.
The principals of the
company include: Francis J. Covie (12.5%); Frank P. Schreiber (10%);
Victor B. Day
(10%); David Parson (10%); Richard Stengel (9%); Charles G. Agnew,
L.S. Helfrich MD, Harry McLaughlin, Thomas M. Thomas, Paul M.
Versiuis, Richard Waxenburg, Samuel M. Gilman (each 5%), George Young
(4%) and a group of local investors had the remaining shares.
With the final
assignment of channel 8,
the hopes of WIRL-TV to hold on to its original grant were finished.
The call letters of WIRL-TV would appear once again, though, when the
group would purchase an existing UHF television a few years later.
Captain Jinks and
Salty Sam on WEEK-TV
Join in and become a friend of "The Captain Jinks" Facebook Page!
for a DVD with their half hour special "The Captain Jinks Show" with
clips, interviews, out-takes from the crew of the S.S. Albatross.
There's also bonus cartoons and a complete show which hasn't aired in
over 30 years.
Along with the
original assignment of a
full powered television station which would act as a translator for
WEEK-TV, WEEQ-TV would attract the other Peoria television stations
with their own repeaters. W-78-AC, a lower powered satellite
television station was already assigned to WTVH-TV to re-broadcast
the signal for those viewers in the LaSalle-Peru, Illinois area. Now
WMBD-TV would file for a low powered repeater as well in June of
This filing by
WMBD-TV, caused quite
the stir with Plains Television Partners, the owner of WICS, Channel
20 in Springfield, Illinois. The Springfield NBC affiliate, would
file to protest a possible monopoly would be achieved by Midwest
Television owners of WMBD-TV and WCIA(TV) in Champaign, Illinois.
The FCC would deny
that protest from
Plains stating that the translator would not compete with WICS or
share any of Channel 20s coverage area, nor would it increase the
dominant position of WCIA(TV) from Champaign. The FCC ruling would
come down in early July of 1962.
Plans Frequency Shift
Evidently, faces with
the reality that
Peoria could not support four television stations, WIRL-TV after the
final assignment of channel 8 in the Quad Cities, gave up on the idea
of utilizing channel 25 to which it was granted after the frequency
was moved. It certainly would have been an uphill battle. Without
having a television network available, as the other stations had them
locked up, it would have nearly impossible to exist without network
compensation and having to purchase programming to fill the schedule.
There simply wasn't the advertising support within the Peoria
business base to purchase enough advertising to make it feasible.
So, with having the
channel 25 available in 1962, WEEK-TV, Channel 43 would once again
ask for a construction permit to change frequency to channel 25. The
new WEEK-TV would operate with an effective radiated power of
186kw to achieve a similar coverage area. That would bring about a
reduction in power from its existing 371kw. The new channel 25
antenna would be a General Electric model TY-25-C.
The move from channel
43 to channel 25
was granted by the FCC in September of 1963. There were some changes
to the initial filing for the grant. WEEK-TV would now operate with
an effective radiated power of 375kw from its tower listed at
Peoria TV Listings
from Tuesday, November 14, 1961 as listed in the Bloomington Pantagraph
Channel 43, Peoria (NBC)
Continental Classroom-Syn, educational
Continental Classroom-NBC, educational
Say When-NBC, game
Play Your Hunch-NBC, game
Price is Right-NBC, game, COLOR
Truth or Consequences-NBC, game/stunts
It Could Be You-NBC, game, COLOR
News at Noon
Captain Sailorbird-Local, children
Barb Barry-local, home-maker
Jan Murray Show-NBC, game, COLOR
Loretta Young Theater-NBC, drama anthology (off network)
Young Doctor Malone-NBC, serial
From These Roots-NBC, serial
Make Room for Daddy-NBC, sit com (off network)
Here's Hollywood-NBC, entertainment news
Kukla and Ollie-NBC, children
Captain Jinks-Local, children
Quick Draw McGraw-Syn, children
News, Weather-Local, newscast
Huntley-Brinkley Report-NBC, newscast
Alfred Hitchcock-NBC drama anthology
Dick Powell Theater-NBC, drama anthology
Chet Huntley-NBC, news documentary
News, Weather, Sports-Local, newscast
Jack Paar (Tonight)-NBC, variety/talk
Evening Meditation-Local, religion
(off network) former prime time series re purposed by the network
WTVH-TV, Channel 19, Peoria (ABC)
Deputy Dog-Syn, Children
Romper Room-Syn/Local, Children
The Texan-ABC, western (off network)
Love That Bob-ABC, sitcom (off network)
Make a Face-ABC, game
Appointment 19-Local, vareity
Community Highlights-Local, public affairs
Number Please-ABC, game
Seven Keys-ABC, game
Queen for a Day-ABC, game
Who Do You Trust?-ABC, game/quiz
American Bandstand-ABC, dance, music
Navy Log-Syn, military drama
Sea Hunt-Syn, adventure
News, Weather, Sports-Local, newscast
Bugs Bunny-ABC, children
Bachelor Father-ABC, sit com
New Breed-ABC, drama
Yours for Song-ABC, game
Reynolds Aluminum Presents-ABC, drama anthology
Crime and Punishment-Syn, crime drama
Movie 19-"Flame and the Arrow"-syn
News, Weather-Local, newscast
WMBD-TV, Channel 31, Peoria (CBS)
Our Daily Bread-local, religion
College of the Air-CBS, educational
Calendar-CBS, current events
I Love Lucy-CBS, sitcom (off network)
Video Village-CBS, game
Surprise Package-CBS, game
Love of Life-CBS, serial
Search for Tomorrow-CBS, serial
Guiding Light-CBS, serial
News at Noon
Farm and News Features-local, farm news
(may have originated at WCIA)
As the World Turns-CBS, serial
House Party-CBS, variety, game, interview
Millionaire-CBS, drama anthology (off network)
Verdict is Yours-CBS, courtroom drama
Brighter Day-CBS, serial
Edge of Night-CBS, serial
Bold Journey-Syndicated, adventure
Early Show-Movie "Lisbon", syn
News, Weather-Local, newscast
CBS News with Douglas Edwards-CBS, newscast
Marshall Dillion-CBS, western
Dick Van Dyke Show-CBS, sit com
Dobie Gillis-CBS, sit com
Red Skelton-CBS, variety/comedy
Garry Moore-CBS, variety
News, Weather, Sports-Local, newscast
Nightwatch-"The Quiet Gun"-syn
At Days End-Local, religion
1964 to Present
The news from the "men who know." This series of
ads from TV Guide in 1965 after the stations move from Channel 43 to 25.
A great arial shot of Peoria for this TV Guide from 1969 for its
broadcast of news at Noon, 6 and 10.
In 1964 WEEK-TV would
be granted the
move to channel 25. Until the change, WEEK-TV was broadcasting on
Channel 43 at a power of 371kw from an antenna 710-feet. In 1964,
the station as able to broadcast only NBC programming in color. By
1966, WEEK-TV would finally be on channel 25, and would be able to
broadcast NBC, film, slides and video tape in color. The power of
the station on channel 25 was listed as 562kw from its antenna at
680-feet. The ownership of the station was still listed as West
Central when in 1966, the station as sold to Kansas City Southern
Industries operating it as Mid-America TV Company.
In 1969 its power was
listed as 562kw
from an antenna at 680-feet. The station also had capabilities to
broadcast full color including network, film, tape and live studio.
Mid-America would operate WEEK-TV until 1985, when it was purchased
by Price Communications. Three years later it was handed off to
Granite Communications as one of its two first stations. As of 2015,
Granite continues to operate WEEK-TV along with WHOI(TV), ABC-Channel
19 which is owned by the Sinclair Broadcast Group. WEEK-TV also
operates WA8E, the My NetworkTV station owned by Four Seasons
WEEK-TV continued to
analog channel 25 until February 17, 2009, when it began to broadcast
a digital signal on UHF channel 57. After the June 12, 2009 shutdown
of the analog signal on channel 25, WEEK-TV received permission from
the FCC to move its digital signal back to its original channel 25.
From 1976 a TV Guide for Channel 25's Sunday night weather and
In 1982 WEEK was claiming to be number one for local news in Peoria.
John Wingate anchored the 5pm news in 1984.
(all TV Guide Ads from the Doug Quick Collection)
(top-above): Uncle Johnny Barton continued to host country music shows
during the 1960s with "Cornbelt Country Style" also syndicated to other
local Midwest television stations.
(above-lower): "The Mike Douglas Show" was a late afternoon
talk/entertainment fest on WEEK-TV in 1968.
By 1981, WEEK-TV was airing off network syndicated "Laverne and
Shirley" weekdays at 5pm and "Entertainment Tonight" for the first time
in 1981 at 6:30 pm.
A series of WEEK-TV news promos from 1979.
The WEEK-TV sign-off from 1989.
Here's a WEEK-TV News Update from 1993.
WTVH-TV, 1964 to Present
Channel 19 was able to
broadcast both network programming from ABC and video tape in color.
WTVH-TV continued under Metromedia until 1965, when it was sold to
WIRL Radio and its owner Mid-America
Media Incorporated which would change the call letters to
WIRL-TV. It would be teamed with WIRL-AM, the popular top 40
station in north central Illinois. In 1969 the stations power was
listed as 186kw from an antenna at 660-feet. The station also
claimed to have full color broadcasting capabilities including
network, film, tape and live studio. In 1967 WIRL-TV was able to
broadcast ABC, film and video tape in color. The station would add
live studio color in 1970.
WIRL would sell its
TV property to
Forward Communications in 1971. The call letters would changed by
Forward by May of 1971 this time to WRAU-TV. The power of WRAU-TV
would be increased to 2,090kw from the same tower at 660-feet. In
1985, WRAU would change to WHOI(TV) also themed “The Heart of
Illinois.” Soon after the call letter change, Forward
Communications would merge with Adams Communications and continue to
operate Channel 19 through 1996. In 1996, WHOI(TV) would be sold to
Benedek Broadcasting which merged with Grey Television in 2002
following the bankruptcy of Benedek. At that point it was spun off
to Chelsey Broadcasting, then in 2004 sold to Barrington Broadcasting
along with KHQA-TV in Hannibal, Missouri.
On March 2, 2009 WHOI
would be operated
by WEEK-TV which continues to operate the station separately within
the facility of WEEK-TV. The Sinclair Broadcast Group purchased
WHOI(TV) on Feburary 28, 2013, while the Sinclair station licensed to
Bloomington, Illinois within the Peoria market was spun off to
Cunningham Broadcasting which would satisfy the FCC duopoly rules
against co-ownership of multiple stations within the same market.
Sinclair skirts the legal aspects of the duopoly rules, since
Cunningham Broadcasting has family ties to the controllers of the
Sinclair Broadcast Group.
1998 WHOI began a
cable telecast as a
WB affiliate known as WBPE, Channel 4 (as it appeared on most cable
systems by design at channel 4). Later with digital broadcasting,
WHOI would add the CW service as 19.2 on its digital lower tier.
WHOI(TV) does not broadcast in true high definition, instead
broadcasts its local programming using an enhanced standard
definition with a 16:9 wide-screen format.
ABC network logo used 1958-1962
WIRL Radio after years of trying to obtain VHF channel 8, finally
obtained a TV station. Mid-America Media Incorporated changed the
call letters to match those of their AM radio station at 1290
kc.. Metromedia made it
possible to broadcast network in color. It was during the ownership of Mid America Media
Channel 19 would obtain the ability to broadcast color film and
would purchase Channel 19 in 1971 and change the call letters
again. This time to WRAU. Under WRAU, Channel 19
would undergo a power increase to over 2,090 kilowatts.
The ABC Color Logo which
preceded each color program broadcast on ABC from 1964-1968.
A WHOI promo from 1987.
A series of WHOI promos from 1988.
The WHOI sign-off from 1989.
(You Tube Videos may be withdrawn at any time)
WMBD-TV, 1964 to Present
WMBD-TV News Ad from TV Guide in 1964.
(from the Doug Quick Collection)
"We Do it Better" was the slogan used by WMBD-TV from 1965.
(TV Guide Ad from the Doug Quick Collection)
The Election of 1968, one of most important elections of the century,
and WMBD-TV was offering local election reports from Jerry Bidle at
(TV Guide Ad from the Doug Quick Collection)
The relationship of WMBD Radio with CBS, plus some possible
"connections" with future WMBD-TV owner Midwest Television could have
had some influence in the affiliate switch from WTVH-TV to
WMBD-TV. CBS ad also had given up hope for ever having the VHF
channel 8 as an affiliate and settled for Channel 31.
The ownership history
of WMBD-TV is
much shorter than its older television cousins. The WMBD-TV story
begins much later as it would go on the air January 1, 1958. Its
original owner was John Fetzer along with WMBD Radio. The group
would be sold to Midwest Television in 1960 for $1.85-million and
would become a “sister” station to WCIA in Champaign, Illinois. In
November of 1952 the full time satellite translator W71AE would be
added to the group to rebroadcast the programming of Channel 31 in
would continue to
operate the station from the old Majestic Theater location in
downtown Peoria until 1978. I visited the station in the mid 1970s
and found it to be a less than desirable facility. It was converted
from a theater and still had many of the theater artifacts including
slanted floors in the former auditorium which included the WMBD AM/FM
radio stations. The AM studio was extremely dirty and cluttered,
while the FM automation was placed on boxes to level the rack panels
holding the array of reel to reel decks (of which several were non
functioning). The floors had peeling and broken tiles, dirt was
caked in the corners where the floor wet the walls, the hall ways
were populated with desks from where employees were expected to work.
Even though I didn't get to see the TV studio, I had no reason to
believe it was any better.
In exploring the
WMBD-TV during up to the late 1970s I have found very little
activity. Other than the installation of a microwave link which
would allow for audio/video transfers to take place between
Springfield and WMBD-TV and between WCIA(TV) and WMBD-TV there
appeared to be very little investments in the technology of the day.
WMBD-TV would be able to pass CBS Network color programming in color
in the early 1960s but CBS didn't have much of a color programming
schedule until the late 1960s.
WCIA and WMBD-TV
would share resources
and programming during much of the 1960s and even into the 1970s. Mid
day newscasts would include a simulcast of farm markets and news,
weekends might include a shared weathercast done live from the
sidewalk in front of the WMBD studios on South-West Jefferson in
downtown Peoria. News gathering would also include shared stories
improvement to the facility
took place in 1977 when the studios of the radio-television group
would move to 3131 University Drive in Peoria. The street address
would match the channel of WMBD-TV, twice, channel 31. One notable
technological advancement would come in 1988 when it was the first
Peoria television station to broadcast in stereo.
Nextar would purchase
interest in WMBD-TV in 1999. Two years later Midwest would sell the
radio properties to Triad Broadcasting. Triad was a company of
managers of the radio group. Also in 2001, Nexstar would purchase
the remaining shares of WMBD-TV held by Midwest Television after the
sale of the radio stations. The call letters of WMBD-AM would
continue, although the call letters for WMBD-TV would fall under
Also in 2002 Nexstar
would come to an
agreement with competitor Sinclair Broadcast Group to operate its
WYZZ(TV), Channel 43 in Bloomington, Illinois. Later after
Sinclair's purchase of WHOI(TV), Channel 19, Peoria, Illinois, it
would spin off WYZZ under its co-owned Cunningham Broadcasting to
avoid FCC duopoly challenges.
WMBD-TV would still be
the odd sibling of its central Illinois core group of stations. As
of 2015, WMBD-TV was still broadcasting in 4:3 standard definition.
Larry King was a former member of the studio crew at WMBD-TV and
eventually a director. He also spent time at the other Peoria
stations during his tenure in Peoria. He contacted me with his
recollections of the original studio at the former Majestic Theatre:
"Let me describe...how I remember the radio set up at the time I was
there. I you walked up the grand staircase from the front hall
and you turned to your right there would ahve been the fledging FM
automation in the first room. Going a little further you would
walk into the main AM control room. On the left side was a larger
room that was a studio for extra guests. In the mornings Milton
Bud and Bob Carlton were in there. Bob ran the board and Milton
was in the studio. Behind the control room was another little
studio that was also the record library. John Lyon would practice
his guitar in there during Cubs or Cardinal baseball games."
"If you turned to your left coming up the stairs was the door to the
production control room. And outside of the production control
room was a very old wire service that ran sports scores. We would
come out of the TV studio during the 10pm news and check the wire to
keep the sports guys up to date. That (was) long before we had
video from every sports game."
"When I first started as a floor director about January 1965, they were
doing the TV version of street scene at Noon and later they would do
the 6pm weather from on the street under that great marquee.
Charlie Tate was the camera man on the Noon block and a variety of the
other engineers(Neil Burke who would later become the Chief, Yogi and
Dale Bargeman) would dot he weather."
"My job was to get the weather board out on the street and have it
cleaned off. The weather board consisted of two Plexiglas maps
that slid in and out. The weather man stood behind the board and
had to write backwards for the camera. The guys that did the
weather also were the afternoon talent on WMBD radio. They would
get off the radio and then do the weather. A couple of the names
I worked with were John Lyons, Bob Gregory. Who could forget John
Day reporter and weatherman?"
"Besides having to get the weather
board on the street, another job of
the floor director at that time, the weather had a live read for a beer
company and a floor director had to do a live pour of beer to end the
commercial. Well, pouring beer wasn't my greatest job, but at
least we got to drink the leftovers."
"I got to the station a little late because I missed working with Jim
Jenson who went to Boston and New York. I did a little time with
Bob Jamison who ended up at ABC and it was great enjoying a sportscast
(from) the late Bob Starr. Don Heim took his place and then I
think he went to Indy."
"Great real NEWS reporting was done from the WMBD News Room (along
with) Joe Rex and Farmer Bill. One weekend I was trying to break
into the news business, so I was hanging around the news room when
there was supposed to be a protest in one of the project areas.
This was in the 60's. So I begged John Day if I could ride along
in one of the great white station wagons with big letters creaming
"WMBD NEWS." (After arriving at the scene) nothing
happened. I think I am glad. I think I really decided at
the time that studio production was more in my line than sitting in a
well marked car and waiting."
WMBD-TV made the transition to local color broadcasting in 1967.
Here is a TV Guide ad from 1967.
(TV Guide from the Doug Quick Collection)
"The Flintstones" in Color, weekday afternoons at 5pm during 1968 on
"The Late Show" from 1965. Obviously, WMBD-TV was equipped with a
color camera in its film chain with the broadcast of movies in color.
WMBD-TV brought Peoria area viewers Cubs baseball in those pre cable
WGN years including 1969 when this ad was published in TV Guide.
WMBD-TV's late Saturday night movie "The Horse Soldiers" presented in
color from 1966.
Bruce and Sally, anchor team from 1976.
Ron Moses was a director at WMBD-TV from 1965 to 1970, before moving
east to direct at WPRI-TV in Providence, Rhode Island.
After finding this website, he related to me that "those five years
were my happiest and most rewarding of my entire career and life."
He stated that the pictures and stories on this site "have brought back
some wonderful memories...." "I remember directing "The Hop," and
loved seeing the original ABC net logo as being the "American
Eagle." He went on to say, "Bob Jamieson was my 6pm anchor until
leaving for St. Louis, then to NBC. In his later years, he was
with ABC and I ran into him once when he was at our station covering
the Rhode Island banking crisis in the early nineties....we were an ABC
affiliate but returned to CBS when the network bought us at some point
after that. My station was bought and sold nine times during my
35 years there and I probably managed to survive as I never moved up
"I did not know that Win Baker apparently started in Illinois TV
production and programming(see above-Win Baker was the stations first
Program Director). "I know of him upon moving back east when he
was a top executive at the Westinghouse owned WBZ-TV in Boston."
"You may be familiar with the name Barbara Novak who performed weather
on WCIA-TV and then moved to Peoria where I actually taped a daily
weather with her feed to WCIA on our reversible microwave. By the
time I got to Providence, Rhode Island she was Barbara Novak Marshall
doing weather and/or news on WLVI-TV, Channel 56 in Boston...."
"Roger O'Neil was a news anchor and reporter at WMBD during my time
there. For many years he was with NBC as a correspondent...."
"He was also a producer at WMBD-TV for a time following the
Jerry Bidle days when Dave Nicols was hired to be the 10pm news
anchor. I never crossed with Jim Jenson but ran into him in the
early 70's when visiting WCBS-TV in New York...." "I also ran
into Paul Moyer who was anchoring weekend news at WCBS-TV before going
to KNBC-TV in Los Angeles. Paul was an anchor at WMBD-TV for part
of the time I was there and I recall him anchoring "Weekend World"
sponsored entirely by Caterpillar."
"You may recall Don Hein who did sports at WMBD and Bob Gregory who did
weather on WMBD-TV and a lot of radio on that station....both wound up
at WLWI(now WTHR), Channel 13 in Indianapolis..."
Ron retired in 2005 and I wish him the best and thank him for his
contribution to this web site....and thank him for his contribution of
the WMBD studio picture from 1957!
(above): A TV Guide Ad for NewsCenter 31 from 1985.
"Perry Mason" in off network syndication was shown on WMBD-TV weekday
The "Late Movie" lineup from February 1971 as presented on Channel 31.
(all TV Guide Ads from the Doug Quick Collection)
The WMBD-TV "Action News" at 5 and 6pm.
A WMBD-TV newscast segment from
In 2008 WMBD was commemorating its 50th Anniversary with a short
segment of its past.
"This Morning" opens for morning show on WMBD-TV.
TV Guide(the Doug Quick collection)
Bob Lee's screengrabs
Meanwhile Back in Peoria-blog
Bloomington Daily Pantagraph(through the Abraham Lincoln Library and
the Danville Public Library)
Larry King for his contribution on details of
working at WMBD-AM/FM-TV
Ron Moses for his memories of WMBD-TV and WCIA and his picture of the
WMBD studios from 1957.