The Peoria Television Story

1953 - Present

In 1953, across the prairie of mid-Illinois brand new television sets began to flicker with pictures from St. Louis, Peoria, Decatur, Springfield, Champaign, Bloomington and Danville. Local entrepreneurs invested their lives and fortunes in a new industry hoping to attract advertisers and capture viewers in each of those cities and rural areas to the images and sounds they would broadcast. 

Each new television station owner had different obstacles to overcome, some achieved success, while others failed.Competition brought on many legal challenges between stations and owners. Television careers began, on-air personalities became local celebrities while other broadcasters worked behind the scenes. 

This book is the story of those entrepreneurs, managers, sales representatives, studio engineers, on-air personalities along with politicians, the FCC, even the legal system all the way to the Supreme Court. It's a detailed story of a budding local industry during television's golden years, the first years we saw “Pictures on the Prairie.”

The many details of the first 10 years of Peoria Television are omitted here and told in great detail in "Pictures on the Prairie: The First Ten Years of Mid-Illinois Television."  Order your copy today!

The Fight for VHF-TV, Channel 8

WEEK-TV, Channel 43, Peoria, IL

1953-Present

The newspaper story pictured here says "Channel 8 May Give Older Station Trouble" was certainly true of both heritage Peoria TV stations. The prospect of a VHF TV station would certainly give it regional dominance not only from a viewership standpoint but from an income standpoint as well. Advertisers would have flocked to channel 8, leaving the less dominate UHF short ranged stations with very little to offer.

I also assume that CBS would have snatched up the affiliation agreement to ensure the most attractive station for viewers throughout north-central Illinois. That would have guaranteed CBS major VHF coverage all throughout the region with WBBM-TV(2), Chicago; WHBF-TV(4), Quad Cities; WCIA(3), Champaign; KHQA-TV(7), Quincy-Hannibal; WTHI-TV(10), Terre Haute, IN and eventually KWK(KMOX-TV)(4), St. Louis.

Read more about a very complex story of the transfer of the VHF channel allocations of Channel 8 from Peoria to the Quad Cities and of Channel 2 from Springfield to St. Louis in my book "Pictures on the Prairie; The First Ten Years of Mid-Illinois Television."  A link to the publisher's website is above.

Officials of WEEK and WEEK-TV broke ground for construction of a new radio/TV building at 2907 Springfield Road on Monday, September 15, 1952. Pictured are: Ed Verkler (architect); William Flynn (station commercial manager); C.B. Akers (WEEK executive); Robert Fransen (TV Program Director); Major Joseph O. Malone (with shovel); Ken Mills (general contractor); John O. Burch (Executive V-P of the Peoria Association of Commerce); Fred Mueller (WEEK General Manager) and Wanye F. Lovely (WEEK Chief Engineer).

Channel 43 was applied for by several different groups of potential ownership. Full details on each application are included in "Pictures on the Prairie: The First Ten Years of Mid-Illinois Television." 

The eventual owner of the allocation which would become WEEK-TV was West Central Broadcasting. The company was already in operation as WEEK Radio. The proposal from West Central included a TV station operating at 170 kW from an antenna 546-feet high with a construction cost of $518, 587, the first-year operating cost of $365,000 and first-year revenue at $390,000. The location of the proposed facility was listed as Springfield Hill Road (2907 Springfield Road) in Groveland Township, Tazewell County, Illinois.

Both transmitter and antenna were General Electric models. The principal owners were Democratic U.S. Senator from Oklahoma Robert S. Kerr (50.611%) (see-Kerr-McGee Oil Company), T. M. Kerr (11.141% (owner of KRMG and at Kerr-McGee Oil Company), Geraldine H. Kerr (3.235%), Fred Mueller (5.0%) WEEK Radio General Manager, C.B.Akers (3.0%) owner of KGLC Radio, Miami, Oklahoma and theater owner).



 

The above page from Peoriana TV Guide as well other images on this page from the Peoria Journal-Star Newspaper was submitted by WEEK-TV and Steve Shaw unless otherwise stated. 

Click on the button to see the program schedule from the dates indicated above.

Click on the button to see the program schedule from the dates indicated above.

Click on the picture to click through the gallery. Information about each is shown

Click on the picture to click through the gallery. Information about each is shown

from a 1962 edition of TV Guide® and the J.R.Evans Collection

 

 

1/70
A Selection of NBC
Shows from 1953-65

The Jimmy Durante Show ran from 1954-57 on NBC sponsored by Old Gold cigarettes and seen on WEEK-TV.

(YouTube)

This is a kinescope of the 7 am hour from November 20, 1957, which was broadcast live on the NBC network and on WEEK-TV.

(YouTube)

From 1957, a prime-time lineup commercial broadcast during daytime programming.

(YouTube)

Here are two of the recorded peacock color intros used to designate color programming broadcast  on NBC and your local station. It was done to create a sense of "missing out" by those watching in black and white.  After all, NBC was in the business of selling of RCA color TVs. The announcer is Mel Brandt. The peacock was designed by John J. Grahm and the music by Jack Easton. Even though WICS could pass NBC color programming to those few viewers where were able to watch, it would be another 10 years before local color would be a reality for central Illinois.

(left: from nickelodeon Deutschland, right: from terrence mcclinton and YouTube)

In my book "Pictures on the Prairie: The First Ten Years of Mid-Illinois Television" there is an explanation to the series of events which made it possible for WEEK-TV, Channel 43 to make a move to channel 25. It took a number of years but by September of 1963, the FCC would agree for it to occur.

 

With the change in broadcast frequency, the station could lower its power from 371 kW to 186 kW to achieve the same coverage area. The tower height was 712-feet. It was later decided to keep the power output to increase the coverage area and signal penetration within its current coverage area.

1/113
NBC Shows from 1965-1980

Click on the picture to click through the gallery. Information about each is shown

ITom McIntyre was WEEK-TVs main anchor from 1973 to 2015 when he retired after 42 years.

Bill Houlihan was the weatherman when WEEK-TV signed on the air in 1953.  He continued through the mid-1960s when he left the station, only to return in 1977.  He was still delivering the local weather story until he died in 1994.

A series of promos from 1979 with WEEK-TV "Now More Than Ever" image promotional announcements. 

(YouTube)

From 1983, "Hello Illinois" WEEK-TV

(YouTube)

1986 Clips from WEEK-TV

(YouTube)

The WEEK-TV image promos from 1986 along with local commercials.

(YouTube)

WEEK-TV News promo from 1986 featuring their AP award winning staff/news

(YouTube)

Bill Houlihan on WEEK-TV, from September 1989. Here he gives a report on Hurricane Hugo on Sept. 22, 1989 before the local forecast.  

(YouTube)

The WEEK-TV Sign-off from 1989

(YouTube)

WEEK-TV News Digest, a short news promo drop during prime time. From Memorial Day Weekend, 1989.

(YouTube)

Here's a rare look at the sales efforts of WEEK-TV from 1990.  This was produced with the NBC new TV season and included the local efforts of WEEK-TV.

(YouTube)

WEEK-TV and NBC News in Peoria from 1992.

(YouTube)

A WEEK-TV complete newscast from May 3, 1993

(YouTube)

A series of promos for WEEK-TV from 1993

(YouTube)

A segment of a newscast from 1995 as broadcast on WEEK-TV

(YouTube)

A complete newscast from August 5, 2008, as broadcast on WEEK-TV

(YouTube)

A complete newscast from August 1, 2013, as broadcast on WEEK-TV

(YouTube)

NBC Shows from 1981-2020
1/85
NBC Shows from 1980-2005

WEEK-TV Notes from 1964-Present

In 1964 WEEK-TV would be granted the frequency shift from channel 43 to channel 25. Until the change, WEEK-TV was broadcasting on channel 43 at a power of 371 kW from an antenna 710-feet at their studio location. Also in 1964, WEEK-TV was only able to broadcast programming in color from NBC.

WEEK-TV would make the move to channel 25 in 1966 and added the ability to broadcast film, slides, and videotape in color. The power of channel 25 would be 562 kW from 680 feet. The reduction of the tower height was probably due to the difference in size of the antenna height from channel 43 and 25. The ownership of WEEK-TV was still listed as West Central when in 1966 the station was sold to Kansas City Southern Industries operating as Mid-America TV Company.

 

In 1969 the power of WEEK-TV continued to be listed as 562 kW from an antenna at 680-feet as there appeared to be no changes in transmitter power or ERP during the period. Mid-America would operate Channel 25 until 1985 when it was purchased by Price Communications. In 1988 it was handed off to Granite Communications as WEEK-TV would have been Granite's second station in the growing chain of television and radio stations. In fact, in the late 1990s, WEEK-TV purchased the FM allocation for nearby Eureka, Illinois giving it the call letters of WEEK-FM and operated the station as "Oldies 98.5." A year later, though, WEEK-TV sold the radio property which is now WPIA. 

Ten years after selling the Eureka radio station, WEEK-TV, in 2009, would take over the operations of Barrington Broadcastings WHOI, Channel 19(the history of Channel 19 is included on this website). It operated its ABC competitor under a joint sales and services agreement. Another shift in ownership would turn the stations upside down once again with the sale of WEEK-TV to Quincy Newspapers, operated out of Quincy, Illinois.

 

WEEK-TV also had joint sales agreements with the MyNetwork TV affiliate, WAOE, owned by Four Seasons Broadcasting. Meanwhile, Sinclair was to terminate the joint sales and shared services agreement with WEEK-TV within a year after the Quincy Newspapers ownership switch. In 2016 Quincy Media (as it's now called), would purchase the intellectual property of WHOI and it's "Heart of Illinois" brand and the network affiliations, that being of ABC and CW, but not the actual physical TV station of Channel 19. The result is a confusing situation in that there is still a signal on Channel 19, the Sinclair Broadcasting Group's co-owned "Comet" signal, but Channel 19 still maintains the WHOI call letters.

 

Now WEEK-TV operates it's multi-channel digital tier of stations with 25.1 being WEEK-TV (NBC), 25.2 is "HOI ABC", and WEEK-CW on 25.3.  See Television Today-Peoria for details.

 

 

If you have any pictures of WEEK-TV related activities from the era of 1965-present and would like to share those digital items along with any personal stories of working there or even just being a viewer I would love to include it here on this page. Send JPG pictures only (no physical artifacts please) or your narrative of your experiences with WEEK-TV to my e-mail: dougquick at dougquick-dot-com.

Peoria TV sources:

WEEK-TV, HOI-ABC

Broadcasting-Telecasting
Wikipedia

TV Guide® from the Doug Quick Collection
YouTube

Bob Lee's Screengrabs
WEEK's CINewsNow.com
Meanwhile Back in Peoria-blog
houseofjitters.com
Bloomington Daily Pantagraph(through the Abraham Lincoln Library and the Danville Public           Library as well as newspapers.com
Larry King for his narrative on working at WMBD AM/FM/TV
Ron Moses for his narrative on working at WMBD-TV and WCIA and his picture from the                  WMBD studios from 1957

 

 

Click on the image for WTVH at the left to go to the next page in the Peoria TV station history set of pages.

Updated 12.07.2019

© 2002-2019 Doug Quick.

Produced by Doug Quick

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