Central Illinois' On-Line Broadcast Museum
Other Television Stations
WJJY, Channel 14, Jacksonville, IL
Jacksonville, Illinois saw the results of months of work with the broadcasts of its first television station, WJJY-TV in August of 1969. It was developed by Keith Moyer (who developed WTIM Radio in Taylorville) who sought after many local investors to set the station up for business and serve the Quincy, Jacksonville, and even Springfield areas with ABC programming. The station went on the air with an extraordinary power output of 4.5-million watts of ERP from an antenna and huge tower at 1,610 feet near Bluffs, Illinois west of Jacksonville.
From what I've been able to determine, WJJY had a "special" ABC affiliation agreement, similar to what WDAN-TV had 12 years earlier which required the station to broadcast everything offered by ABC, with no pre-emptions, while the station would receive either a small network compensation fee or no fee at all. WJJY didn't even have a direct network feed from ABC, having to re-broadcast ABC programming from the on-air signal of WAND, Channel 17 in Decatur. Local commercials, promos, and PSA's would cover the local Decatur commercials from WAND.
WJJY in a unique way eliminated the need for the station to purchase much in the way of syndicated programming. Channel 14 would pre-record on videotape the Saturday morning cartoon schedule each weekend and rerun it in 1 1/2 hour segments on weekday afternoons during the times from about 4:00 pm to 5:30 pm.
WJJY-TV did program local news, but the technology of the day confined most of the attention to Jacksonville news, with only a few major local stories from Quincy or Springfield. The news did bring a couple of future central Illinois personalities to the area, though. Jerry Slabe and Mike Cheevers, both would end up at WAND with Slabe moving on to WCIA in the late 70s.
Mr. Moyer still had "connections" to my hometown of Taylorville, Illinois with the address of 1232 West Main Cross being listed as the "corporate" headquarters of LOOK Television. He even hired at least two Taylorville people for on-air jobs at WJJY-TV, that being Jon Mazzotti (see WTIM AM/FM) and Jeri Mazzotti. I remember seeing a WJJY-TV staff vehicle in Taylorville many times during 1969-70.
Unfortunately, WJJY-TV was the only UHF station available for viewing in the Hannibal, MO-Quincy, IL market as virtually all of the homes were only equipped with VHF televisions/antennas. Viewership was sparse in that area, meanwhile, Springfield was already being served by WAND with ABC programming and other syndicated programming from Decatur. Jacksonville was on the outer fringe of both the Hannibal-Quincy market as well as the Springfield, Decatur, Champaign-Urbana, and Danville markets, and there simply wasn't enough business willing to pay the high cost of advertising on TV, especially when the audience just wasn't there.
With the station missing income goals, month after month, the writing was soon on the wall that it was in trouble. The station even took on the role of a repeater for the University of Illinois broadcast station WILL-TV with the broadcast of some of the daytime educational programs to bring in some income. There was also a matter of a scandal involving Mr. Moyer and an ABC regional affiliations manager and charges involving bribery to keep the network affiliation when Channel 14 didn't meet the requirements of the network affiliation agreement.
On September 15, 1971, WJJY-TV signed off for good after going into bankruptcy. The broadcast tower was sold to an educational television corporation involving a number of educational entities.
On Easter morning, 1978, the tower would meet its end, after falling as the result of ice build up on the tower during an ice storm, which paralyzed mid-Illinois. The tower of WAND in Decatur also would meet the same fate on the same day.
I've included a number of newspaper stories from the local Jacksonville newspaper telling the story of WJJY-TV, but no one tells it better than a former employee of the station. J. Mitch Hopper includes "The Rise and Fall of WJJY-TV, Channel 14" on his website www.brainmist.com. Check out his site for more detailed information including some great color photos of the construction of the tower/antenna. His details on the controversial antenna are incredible.
(newspaper pictures from Jacksonville Journal from August 1, 1969)
(from Jacksonville Journal, September 16, 1971)
(from Broadcasting, November 8, 1971)
The End Came Soon
(from Jacksonville Journal, November 20, 1971)
(from Jacksonville Journal, unknown date, 1973)
(from Broadcasting, April 2,1973
J. Mitch Hopper
WBHW, Channel 55, Springfield, Illinois was developed and built by Windmill Broadcasting in 1979. The application was filed in March of 1977 for channel 55 for a station that would broadcast with a power of 12.13kW from a tower at just over 450-feet. The estimated construction cost was $228,000 with the first-year operating cost at $252,020. The first-year projected revenue was estimated at $259,200. It took two years to have the application approved by the FCC and the call letters for WBHW to be granted for Channel 55.
The studios/transmitter for WBHW was located at a former men's clothing store near the I-55 and Clear Lake Avenue interchange just east of the now-former Springfield K-Mart. Windmill Broadcasting Company consisted of William F. Wingerter and Gerald Brown. Wingerter was the owner of B.B.H. & J. which owned and operated WFMB(FM) in Springfield. Brown was a Springfield accountant. The owners of B.B.H. & J. other than Wingerter were Harold J. Hoskins (general manager of WFMB, former operations manager at WICS), R.W. Deffenbaugh (a Springfield attorney), and John W. Johnson (Springfield grain dealer). People of Springfield would probably remember Mr. Wingerter as Pegwill Pete, host of the children's panel show on WICS from the late 1950s to the mid-late 1960s.
After going on the air in 1979, the ownership of Windmill Broadcasting was short-lived. By March of 1981, the station would be sold to Jackson Telecasters for $734,000. Jackson Telecasters was owned by Cy N. Bahakel who already owned six AM radio stations, four FM stations, and six TV stations. By the time of the sale of WBHW, there were 23 investors in Windmill Broadcasting Company.
On November 24, 1982, the call letters of WBHW were changed to WRSP. Two years later in 1985 WRSP would become a FOX Television Network affiliate broadcasting a limited prime time schedule.
Meanwhile, in September of 1987 WCCU, Channel 27 would go on the air, owned by Gerald Fitzgerald as Urbana Channel 27 Incorporated. It would broadcast the program schedule of WRSP including the programming of the FOX Television Network with local insertion of commercials (what there were of them) and local public affairs programming.
By 1989 WCCU was listed under the ownership of Springfield Independent TV Company (Cy N. Bahakel). Later the record would show that the ownership change took place on July 20, 1992. It's possible it was operated in 1989 under a management agreement with the Bahakel station, WRSP ahead of the actual purchase. The purchase was a move to create a mid-Illinois duopoly was taken with the application for the purchase of WCCU, Channel 27 in Urbana, Illinois from Urbana Channel 27 Incorporated. The sale price was $1,169,100 along with liabilities of up to $1,851,432.
WCCU had a power of 2,188 kW with an antenna height of 854-feet located near Penfield, Illinois. WCCU was already airing all of the programming from WRSP from its original air date but inserted local commercials and local public affairs programming from their studio located on Killarney Street on Urbana's north side near Lincoln Avenue and I-74 interchange.
In June of 2007, the WRSP, Channel 55, Springfield and /WCCU, Channel 27, Urbana duopoly was sold to GOCOM Media along with that of WBUI, Channel 23, Decatur.
On December 31, 2012, Sinclair Broadcast Group would purchase the non-license assets of GOCOM's three stations including WRSP, WCCU, and WBUI. This would take the operation of the stations away from GOCOM, the license owners, and put it in the control of Sinclair Broadcast Group and WICS, Channel 20 in Springfield.
All of the pictures below from FOX-Champaign, at WCCU, Channel 27 taken from 2015 through 2019.
A Selection of FOX
Shows from 1987-2018
WCCU Repack Improvements
The repack of many UHF stations to the lower end of the UHF-TV band provided an opportunity to relocate WCCU, Channel 27 from channel 26 to 36 along with increasing the power and coverage area of the GOCOM station. On January 14, 2020, WCCU began broadcasting from the 1380-foot WICD, Channel 15(NewsChannel 20-Champaign) tower.
For the first time, many households south of US-36 are now able to view WCCU from an outdoor home antenna, as well as many in the Champaign-Urbana and Danville areas, are now able to receive the station with their indoor antenna.
The actual off-air coverage area of WCCU will now reach Terre Haute, Lafayette, IN along with Decatur, Bloomington and include Mattoon-Charleston.
The picture to the left shows the WCCU antenna hanging on the side of the WICD tower, just below the main mast of the tower which houses the WICD antenna. It is shown with the arrow pointing at the WCCU antenna.
Click here for more information about WCCU-TV including the exact coverage area map.
Channel 23 went on the air on May 14, 1984, as WFHL owned by Decatur Foursquare Broadcasting Incorporated. It was primarily a religious broadcast station with some syndicated off-network “family” type programming. It went on the air from a 1,040-foot tower/antenna between Argenta and Oreana, Illinois with 1,660 kW.
On March 30, 1998, WFHL was purchased by the Paxson Decatur License Incorporated, part of the Paxson Communications Corporation and the new Paxon Television Network (PAX TV). The purchase price was $9.25-millions. The purchase would change the call letters to WPXU. Along with the affiliation of PAX TV Channel, 23 would also be an affiliate of the UPN network from 1998 to 2002.
In 1998 Lowell “Bud” Paxson established PAX TV a television network that featured family-style programming. The network didn't cover the entire country with affiliates or owned stations and the advertising revenue fell far short of what it would take to stay afloat. In 2005 PAX TV would go through a name change to “I: Independent Television.” NBCUniversal was a partner in the PAX TV and began the process of a buyout of “Bud” Paxson would result in his resignation. Later the leftovers of PAX TV would evolve to become ION owned by NBCUniversal and Ion Media Networks.
Channel 23 would leave the ownership of PAX and would become part of the group of stations under the ACME Communications Corporation. ACME was co-founded by former FOX Television Network executive Jamie Kellner. Kellner would become the CEO of the new WB Television Network. Acme TV Licensees of Illinois purchased WPAX on June 14, 1999, for $13.3-million. At the time of the Acme ownership, Channel 23 was broadcasting at a power of 1,951 kW with a tower/antenna at 1,289-feet near Argenta-Oreana, Illinois. This indicated that the transmitter/tower location was changed during the PAX TV from the original tower location to another location just south of the tower/antenna location of WAND, Channel 17.
With the ownership change to ACME, the call letters would change again, this time to WBUI to reflect the affiliation to the new WB Network and central Illinois being the home of the University of Illinois.
In October of 2007 WBUI, Channel 23 would change owners once again with the purchase of the station by GOCOM Media of Illinois, LLC. GOCOM would operate the station with the addition of local news provided by WICS and WICD at 9 pm on weeknights. On December 31, 2012, Sinclair Broadcast Group would purchase the non-license assets of GOCOM's three stations including WRSP, WCCU, and WBUI. This would take the operation of the stations away from GOCOM, the license owners, and put it in the control of Sinclair Broadcast Group and WICS, Channel 20 in Springfield.
I've received many questions over the years about the history of Public Radio/TV station WILL-AM/FM/TV. Without getting into a deep dive of research on the University of Illinois broadcast stations, I hope I can answer everyone's questions and curiosity by supplying a link to an online story supplied by Illinois Newsroom in January of 2022.
When I was doing research on the commercial TV stations, I did come across this curious story from one of the local newspapers, probably the Urbana Courier. It was from June 8, 1953.
Evidently, a bill introduced in the Illinois Legislature by Republican Frank Stansky from Savanna passed the house and would be debated before a Senate committee during hearings. This bill would prohibit the University of Illinois from operating a television station.
I did see another story that described the bill along with comments from its sponsors, that expressed concern that the TV station would broadcast programs that would present a liberal viewpoint.
This article includes a resolution from the board of directors of the University of Illinois Alumni Association, that would instruct its officers "to use what means they deem wise to oppose" the bill before the state legislature.
To see more about the history of WILL-AM/FM/TV and the original article from the Illinois Newsroom click here. As I find additional information on WILL-TV, I'll include it here with future updates.
To see the technical aspects of WILL-TV, click here.