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Central Illinois Television pre-1953


Local Television was non-existent before July 1953, and even then it was limited in reach. Local UHF stations (those at channels 14 -83) in the early years didn't reach out much beyond 20-30 miles from the transmitter point. VHF stations (channels 2-13) were a different matter. When VHF station WCIA went on the air local television became a reality for many communities beyond the coverage of the lower-powered UHF stations. If a home TV set included a UHF tuner (at an extra cost) it would add the possibility of adding one or possibly two more stations, if it was lucky.


Central Illinois Television Mania


A typical television installation during those early days costs about $200 to $400 plus antenna, tower, cable, rotor, etc. adding another $150-$200 to the investment. One thing is for sure, your life wouldn't be your own after your purchase.


If you had a television people would "pop in" to watch shows on many nights, especially when those "spectaculars" were shown and the popular shows of the era like "Milton Berle," "The Colgate Comedy Hour" and "The Toast of the Town, " not to mention the World Series and various boxing matches and wrestling matches.


Many bars and taverns installed television which pretty much guaranteed a large number of viewers who would spend hours drinking before going home. People would gather at storefronts along Main Street if there was a television in the window. It's hard to imagine anything today which would get so much attention!


Television dealers sprung up overnight, some were mom-and-pop neighborhood dealers in back rooms, garages, and small storefronts. Others were already major department stores. Television manufacturers set up franchises based on certain brands to select dealers who would provide service departments maintaining those fragile early television sets.


Where it all Begins


As the FCC was overrun by a large number of applications for TV stations after WWII, it became apparent that the VHF band of only 12 channels was not going to be enough to bring about the proper number of channel allocations for cities across the U.S.. Beginning in 1948, a number of hearings and studies began by the FCC in which the Commission would decide on several other issues which were going to have to be settled before any more permits were to be issued. It was during that time called “The Freeze” that the FCC “froze out” issuing any permits for the construction of new television stations and even in some cases radio stations.


Besides the problems with allocations which would deal with technical issues involving spacing between stations, power outputs, and tower height, other rules and regulations would need to be established that would deal with education television, color TV technical standards, and the opening of frequency spectrum for use by TV stations beyond the original 12 channels.


Winter is Over


By April 14, 1952, the FCC had finally, it seemed, lifted “The Freeze.” The questions concerning the technical standards of color TV and expanding the available frequency spectrum for new television stations were announced in the Commission's 6th Report and Order and the FCC would be taking applications from potential developers who hoped to invest in the new broadcast technology. Even though there were still quite a few issues to be worked out, the main problem of spectrum space was decided.


The additional spectrum would come from the frequency spectrum in the UHF (Ultra-High-Frequency) band. Those stations which were already grandfathered in the original VHF (Very-High-Frequency) band, those with channel numbers 2-13, would stay pretty much as is.


The new rules would allow for 617 VHF stations, and 1,436 UHF stations and would establish zones with mileage requirements for the separation of stations along with antenna height standards. Those rules would be questioned for years. Many of the rules would be the cause of many developers losing their investments, people losing their jobs, and communities losing a potential media voice.

By September of 1952, the first commercial UHF stations went on the air in Portland, Oregon on channel 27. It would be just five months later that central Illinois would see its first UHF station in Peoria. WEEK-TV signed on the air on February 1, 1953. Unfortunately, most people in central Illinois were still in the dark when it came to local television as there were very few television household viewers at that time.


Central Illinois Channel Allocations


In trying to satisfy the needs of future local television investors the FCC set up a number of predetermined channels which could be assigned to each community. It was a mixture of VHF and UHF channels and a plan to allow for a mixture of each in some areas. In mid-Illinois, the list of communities and allocated channels included Belleville (54), Bloomington (15), Centralia (32, 59), Champaign-Urbana (3, *12, 21, 27, 33), Danville (24), Decatur (17, 23), Jacksonville (29), Kankakee (14), Macomb (61), Mattoon (46), Mt. Vernon (38), Olney (16), Quincy (10, 21), Peoria (8, 19, 37, 43), Springfield (2, 20, 26) and Vandalia (28). Other allocations affecting future television in mid-Illinois include those for the following Missouri communities: Festus (14), Hannibal (7, 27), St. Louis (4, 5, 9*, 11, 30, 36, 42), and communities in Indiana: Bloomington (4, 30*, 36), Lafayette (47*, 59), Terre Haute (10, 37*, 63).

Those channels indicated with an asterisk were allocations set up for educational television use. I will also add that a couple of those assigned channel numbers will be very controversial as well.


The Quest for Channel 2


In April of 1952, it appeared that Springfield, Illinois would be assigned allocations for VHF channel 2 along with UHF channels 20 and 26. The allocation was granted for channel 20 and would become WICS. Channel 26 would be set aside for educational television broadcasting with a plan that was yet to be determined.


It didn't take long for the allocation of VHF channel 2 to be targeted with an application filed in June 1952. The owner/operator for Springfield's WTAX AM/FM first applied for the lone VHF allocation and proposed Springfield's first television station. In July of 1952, WCBS Inc. would file for channel 2 (The call letters of WCBS were changed in 1946 to WCVS, but the name of the Illinois State Journal-Register-owned company, WCBS, Inc remained through much of the 1950s). During the same week as the WCVS application came one from WMAY-TV Inc. operators of yet another Springfield radio station.


Applications for Channel 8 in Peoria


In June of 1952, Peoria Broadcasting Company (WMBD Radio) would apply for Peoria's channel 8. WIRL Radio also applied to channel 8 along with Brookwell Enterprises, owned by former Senator C. Wayland Brooks (R-IL). Brooks would eventually cancel his application.



So What Happened?


Central Illinois watches Channel 3, WCIA, but what happened to channels 2 and 8? Find the answers at Central Illinois' On-Line Broadcast Museum at 


TV Today

ATSC is here in

Central Illinois

Read my report on what you can expect with the change-over to ATSC 3.0 or watch the video below for an explanation of what it all means.   Click Here to go to the Central Illinois TV page.

Check out a complete listing of area television signals across mid-Illinois, along with Chicago, St. Louis, Peoria, Terre Haute, and Quincy markets.


The pages include current TV listings for each market, all of the television transmitters/towers, who owns each one, the owner's address, the operator's address, phone number, websites, and other contact information.

It also includes all of the sub-channels (minus shopping and religious signals). Ownership is listed along with address, phone numbers, and contact information along with websites.

The pages also include ATSC 3.0 (NextGen TV) information for each market offering the new local television standard! There are also links for an explanation of what to expect in the years ahead!

Pull down your selection from the drop-down menu at the top of the page, TV TODAY, then choose any market for complete info.

Classic Images

Below are many pictures, print ads, and sales pieces from a number of the central Illinois stations.  A few of those are already posted throughout this website, while a few others are new to this site.  There's no theme, and it's a variety of things I picked from the files. Click on the arrows to advance forward/backward, or click on the picture to enlarge it (in most cases).

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