Other Television Stations
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(From Broadcasting: April 11, 1966)
(From Broadcasting: April 15, 1968)
WJJY, Channel 14, Jacksonville, IL
(From Broadcasting: April 18, 1966)
(From Broadcasting: May 5, 1966)
Nearly two years after the original application for a construction permit, Keith Moyer would apply for a change in the technical aspects of Channel 14. The original application asked for a broadcast tower of 442 feet, which would have severely limited the station's reach. Hopes of reaching the Hannibal-Quincy area or even Springfield would have been nearly impossible.
So, with the help of additional investors, another application was filed requesting approval for an incredible tower height of over 1600 feet. That FCC grant was listed in Broadcasting and shown here, posted on April 15, 1968.
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 massive tower at 1,610 feet near Bluffs, Illinois, west of Jacksonville.
From what I've determined, 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. In contrast, the station would receive either a small or no network compensation fee. 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 PSAs 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 from about 4:00 pm to 5:30 pm.
WJJY-TV programmed local news, but the day's technology confined most of the attention to Jacksonville news, with only a few prominent 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 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 Street listed as the "corporate" headquarters of LOOK Television. He even hired at least two Taylorville people for on-air jobs at WJJY-TV: 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 homes were only equipped with VHF televisions/antennas. Viewership was sparse in that area. Meanwhile, WAND was already serving Springfield 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 wasn't enough business willing to pay the high cost of advertising on TV, especially when the audience just wasn't there.
(Above article from July 23, 1968 Jacksonville Daily Courier )
(WJJY would become a member of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce. This is from Nov 17, 1968 and the Jacksonville Daily Courier)
(newspaper pictures from Jacksonville Daily Courier from August 1, 1969)
WJJY would become a member of the Jacksonville Jaycees. (This is from May 1, 1969 and the Jacksonville Daily Courier)
(newspaper TV schedules listed all of the above stations.)
(newspaper article from Jacksonville Daily Courier from August 2, 1969)
Listings for Saturday from October 11, 1968 issue
Listings for Saturday late PM from October 11, 1968 issue
Listings for Friday PM from October 11, 1968 issue
Listings for Saturday from October 11, 1968 issue
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 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 some educational entities.
On Easter morning, 1978, the tower met its end after falling due to ice build-up on the tower during an ice storm, which paralyzed mid-Illinois. The WAND tower in Decatur would also meet the same fate on the same day.
I've included some newspaper stories from the local Jacksonville newspaper telling the story of WJJY-TV, but no one tells it better than a former station employee. 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.
(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
(From Broadcasting: April 25, 1977)
(From Broadcasting: March 29, 1982)
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 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 owned 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 1982, 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 occurred 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 that 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, with liabilities of up to $1,851,432.
WCCU, a TV station situated near Penfield, Illinois, had a power of 2,188 kW and an antenna height of 854 feet. The station aired all programming from WRSP, along with local commercials and public affairs programming from their studio on Killarney Street in Urbana, near Lincoln Avenue and the I-74 interchange.
In June 2007, GOCOM Media acquired the duopoly of WRSP, Channel 55 in Springfield, WCCU, Channel 27 in Urbana, and WBUI, Channel 23 in Decatur.
On December 31, 2012, Sinclair Broadcast Group purchased the non-license assets of GOCOM's three stations, including WRSP, WCCU, and WBUI. As a result, Sinclair Broadcast Group and WICS, Channel 20 in Springfield took control of the stations, previously owned by GOCOM.
All of the pictures below are 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 can now view WCCU from an outdoor home antenna, and many in the Champaign-Urbana and Danville areas can now 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.
Sinclair Eliminates All Produced Newscasts from their Champaign Stations
March 31, 2023, was the last day of WCCU originating a local newscast for both WCCU and WRSP, FOX-Illinois. This ends all Champaign newscasts of the Sinclair-owned/operated stations, starting with eliminating all WICD newscasts in 2015.
In 2015, the WICD 15ABC Champaign news department was eliminated, leaving only a few to produce a 9:00 pm newscast on FOX-Illinois WCCU 27FOX. Later, a 5:30 pm newscast was added, and the 9 pm newscast on WCCU was simulcast on WBUI CW23 Decatur. Weekend newscasts were produced by WICS/WRSP and simulcasted on both WRSP and WCCU as FOX-Illinois. In late 2021, the load of producing newscasts by WICS on WRSP was eliminated with the simulcast of the WCCU newscasts on WRSP. Meanwhile, the WBUI CW23 Decatur FOX-Illinois news simulcast ended. Then, by April 1, 2023, a decision was made to end the production of the WCCU newscasts and return the production of FOX-Illinois news to the WICS news department. That reduced the newly remodeled Champaign newsroom to being a news bureau for WICS/WRSP, while the studio would be utilized for producing newscasts for KHQA 7CBS/ABC Quincy(see below).
This will also leave WCIA as the only full-time TV news source for east central Illinois. This action coincides with the Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing of Sinclair-owned Bally Sports regional sports network in March 2023.
This also eliminates Sinclair's direct competition against WCIA and its ownership of Nextstar within the same market and, to a lesser degree, WAND. WCIA is in Champaign, WAND is in Decatur, and WICS/WRSP is in Springfield, the furthest away at nearly 90 miles, but all within the same market.
Other Sinclair mid-Illinois stations have seen extreme reductions or elimination of news departments over the years, including of KDNL 30ABC St.Louis, WHOI 19ABC Peoria, WYZZ 43FOX Bloomington, KHQA 7CBS/ABC Quincy-Hannibal, WICD 15ABC Champaign and now WCCU 27FOX Champaign. Even though most of these stations broadcast local news now, those newscasts are likely coming from other production facilities within the market, out of a station's city of license, or even out of the home market.
During the early 2000s, Sinclair tried to utilize a centralized news operation called News Central that would include a simulcast of nationally based newscasts with anchors and several weathercasters producing different pre-recorded weathercasts for each of the FOX, CW, and more minor market paramount network affiliates it owned. The News Central concept was a failure and was quickly discontinued. Sinclair made deals for news content from competing stations to satisfy the network affiliation contract requirements for airing local newscasts.
KHQA newscasts are still produced at the high-def equipped WCCU studios in Champaign with a separate news staff of anchors from a staff of reporters and weathercasters who are located at a stripped-out (standard def) KHQA news department.
WYZZ FOX43 Bloomington is on record as being owned by Cunningham Broadcasting. According to Wikipedia, "nearly all of Cunningham's stock is owned by the estate of Carolyn C.(Cunningham) Smith, which controls the trusts of her and Julian Sinclair Smith's four sons (one of whom is the current CEO of Sinclair), and so Sinclair still effectively owns Cunningham."
On May 14, 1984, Channel 23 began broadcasting religious programming and syndicated "family" shows from a 1,040-foot tower/antenna located between Argenta and Oreana in Illinois. The station was owned by Decatur Foursquare Broadcasting Incorporated and had a transmission power of 1,660 kW.
Later in 1998, Paxson Decatur License Incorporated, a part of the Paxson Communications Corporation, acquired the station for $9.25 million and changed its call letters to WPXU. Channel 23 also affiliated with the UPN network between 1998 and 2002.
Lowell "Bud" Paxson founded PAX TV in 1998, which was a television network that aired family-friendly programming. Despite its popularity, the network failed to generate enough advertising revenue and was rebranded as "I: Independent Television" in 2005. The network eventually evolved to become ION, which is now owned by NBCUniversal and Ion Media Networks.
Channel 23 would leave the ownership of PAX and become part of the group of stations under the ACME Communications Corporation. Former FOX Television Network executive Jamie Kellner co-founded ACME. 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 area 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 purchased 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.
The local news of WCCU, FOX-Illinois 27, and occasionally WRSP, FOX-Illinois 55, was broadcast at 9 pm for several years, ending in October of 2021 with the nightly broadcast of the Sinclair-produced "News Desk."
I've received many questions about Public Radio/TV station WILL-AM/FM/TV history over the years. Without deep diving into research on the University of Illinois broadcast stations, I hope to answer everyone's questions and curiosity by supplying a link to an online story supplied by Illinois Newsroom in January of 2022.
While researching the commercial TV stations, I came across this curious story from one of the local newspapers, probably the Urbana Courier. It was from June 8, 1953.
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, expressing concern that the TV station would broadcast programs presenting 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.