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The History of WCIA, Channel 3, Champaign, IL


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

wcia_1968-0812_granted w49aa_translator_broadcasting.jpg

WCIA Picks Up a Springfield Signal

After making several attempts to bring a full-powered UHF station to Springfield to broadcast the signal of WCIA, it wouldn't be until 1967 for Midwest Television to gain such a station.  The allocation of channel 49 was moved from Jacksonville, Illinois, to thcapital city with the approval of a UHF translator for WCIA.  Even though it wasn't a full-powered facility, W-49-AA would go on the air in 1967.  There's more on the history of Channel 49 below. The addition would give Midwest Television broadcast stations for Channel 3-Champaign, 31-Peoria, 71-LaSalle, and 49-Springfield.







WCIA vs. Cable TV

During the 1960s and even through the 1970s, Midwest Television fought local cable systems to maintain a monopoly on CBS programming.  Cable companies in Paxton and Kankakee were two communities bordering other TV markets and wanted to bring outside CBS signals into their communities.  One argument in favor was the many times in which WCIA preempted popular CBS programs to broadcast University of Illinois sports.  Many viewers complained that they had a right to bring in outside signals from Chicago to add to their station lineups.  This attitude toward cable TV as "the enemy" virtually eliminated any TV advertising on WCIA throughout much of its history.

WCIA News 1965-1969

WCIA has enjoyed a special history regarding its local news product.  As described in some detail in my book "Pictures On the Prairie," whether it was intentional or just an accident, a decision was made to offset the evening and late-night broadcast times of the WCIA news. 

The other local heritage stations, for most of the time during the 1950s, broadcast local news at 6 and 10 pm.  It was also an era when the network news broadcasts were 15 minutes long, most airing at 6 pm or 6:15 pm.  The local stations would then broadcast their news before or after the network news at 6 pm or 6:15 pm.  The late-night local news would air from 10 to 10:15 pm, although there were also some broadcasts of 30-minute local newscasts at 10 pm. 

WCIA would air its local news at 6:30 pm and at 10:30 pm.  The reason, most likely, was to collect TV news audiences across central Illinois in Springfield, Decatur, Bloomington, and Danville without any challenges from the local stations in each of those cities.  This would establish WCIA as a regional news service for many years, even after WCIA moved the broadcast times to the more traditional times of 6 and 10 pm in 1959.   During the 1960s and '70s, WCIA would have one of the country's largest single-market shares of local news viewing.

Another unique factor that helped make WCIA the Central Illinois regional news station was the long-running news anchor staff.  The combination of Paul Davis, Tom Schoendienst (sports), and Mr. Roberts (weather) would carry Channel 3 to number one across central Illinois from the early 1960s to the mid-1970s.  Even though WCIA was number one across central Illinois, the individual local stations in Springfield and Decatur would still have the largest news audience in their respective cities. WCIA would pick up enough audience from Champaign, Danville, and the surrounding areas of central Illinois with minimal UHF TV service to take it statistically to number one for many years.

In 1963 Robert D. "Don" McMullin was listed as WCIA News Editor (News Director).  Mr. McMullin is pictured above in the gallery of photos from the news department at Channel 3.  He would remain as WCIA's News Director until 1967.  Paul Davis would take the reins of Channel 3 News, continuing through 1979.

CBS Color

By January of 1966, CBS was broadcasting about half of its schedule of programs in color, while NBC was virtually 100% color.  ABC was still just slightly behind CBS in hours being broadcast in color. 

Several shows broadcast in color on CBS had to convert from previous seasons of black-and-white programming.  Among those included "Gilligan's Island," "The Wild, Wild West" and the "Andy Griffith Show." 

As the network changed to color, the promotional announcements for those shows would be promoted as being " color on CBS."

The 10-second CBS color logo on the right would precede each program.  This was comparable to the NBC peacock and the ABC color logo used before each color program.

March 1966 WCIA Program Schedule from the St. Louis Post Dispatch

A Selection of Local and Syndicated Shows 66-80
A Selection of CBS Shows from 1966-1980

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

 WCIA Stats 1969

Power 100 kW visual, 20 kW aural, antenna 940-feet
Studio: 509 South Neil Street, Champaign, IL
Licensee: Midwest Television
Network: CBS
National Sales Rep: Peters, Griffin, Woodward
Rate: $1,300
Color: Network, slides, film, tape
August C. Meyer, president
Clara R. Meyer, vice-president
Guy F. Main, executive vice-president
James Fielding: director of operations
Robert L. Meyers, assistant to the president
Gerald  P. Johnson, sales manager
Darrell Blue, program director
John T. Ketterer, film buyer
William J. Helms, production and sales manager
Paul Davis, news director

Washington attorney: Mckenna & Wilkinson

(from Broadcasting Yearbook, 1969 edition

A number of CBS promos from the 1970s and 80s as seen on WCIA during the period.

The CBS Morning News from May 8, 1968

Here is a group of CBS promos from 1970



WCIA produced Soulside as part of its public affairs commitment to the community during the late 1960s and early 1970s.  It dealt with issues of the Black community of Champaign-Urbana and Central Illinois. 


It was originally hosted by former NFL player, actor, and artist Harold Bradley Jr.  "Soul Side" was a 30-minute show that aired at various times on the WCIA schedule, including Sunday at 6 PM and weeknights during prime time at various days and times. 


Some subjects were housing, jobs, health issues, politics, music, culture, lifestyles, and more.  Included are a few posters produced by the Art Department at WCIA during the time of the shows airing. 


Other hosts included Beverly Murray, Tom McDaniel, Quentin Bradford, and Anne Franklin.   It's also noted just how progressive the production and subject matter was for Central Illinois television then. 


The dedication to the community and the efforts of WCIA and its staff members during its history give the station the reputation it has enjoyed over the years.  The posters above are just a few of the many pictures submitted to this website.  If you have a particular request for any "Soulside" program you might remember but not featured here, e-mail your request.  I may have it on file.

Many thanks to John Steege(son-in-law of Harold Bradley Jr.), who
contributed to reproducing the original posters from "Soulside" on WCIA. Also, thanks to other Harold Bradley Jr. family members,
Oliver Bradley, Kevin, and Michaela Brown contributed information about "Soulside" and "Close Up," which also featured the efforts of Mr. Bradley.

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

Movies on WCIA, Channel 3

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

Clip from CBS Evening News from Vietnam War-1970

CBS Promo Montage from the 1960s and 70s all seen on WCIA

1977 Fall Season Premiere Special

wcia 1976 studio shot williebrownlee & Brian Shankman

This is a studio shot from 1976 sent to me from Brian Shankman who worked at WCIA from 1976-78. He is in front of the news desk, with Willie Brownlee is sitting behind the desk. 
(slide picture from Brian Shankman)

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

One of the original recordings of "The New Price is Right" from 1972.

The resignation of Nixon, CBS Coverage from August 8, 1974

WCIA/WMBD-TV News late 1970s

How many of these former WCIA and WMBD people do you recognize?
Top row left to right: Paul Davis, John Slattery, Mary Sue Krugar, Stan Childress, unknown, Ann Anderson, Orrin Benjamin, unknown, Joe Rex, Carl Caldwell, Duane Wallace, Bob Larson :
Middle row left to right: Larry Wood, Colleen Callahan, Dave Shaul, Willie Brownlee, Mr. Roberts, Dick Adams, Jack Margraves, Don Wilcox, Bruce Asbury, and Sally Larvick.
Bottom Row left to right: Unknown, Steve Williams, Mike Stanton, unknown, Diane Barber, unknown.


Anchor 1

Paul Davis, Reporter, Anchor, and News Director of WCIA

Fifteen-year-old Paul Davis began his broadcast career at WCRA Radio in Effingham, Illinois.  His mother was one of the first female news directors in broadcasting at the Southern Illinois radio station. 


He attended the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana. Mr. Davis joined the news department at WCIA in 1960 and became news director in 1967.  During his time at WCIA, Channel 3 would be noted as having one of the highest audience shares for local news among all of the television stations in the country.  He would anchor the evening and late-night newscasts from the early 1960s to 1980 and be a part of a legendary team of WCIA anchors, including Tom Schoendienst (sports) and Mr. Roberts (weather-pictured below with Mr. Davis). 


Paul Davis was instrumental in hiring the legendary Jerry Slabe from WAND in 1978.  In 1980, Mr. Davis' 20-year tenure at WCIA would end with his move as news director at WGN-TV in Chicago. 

Paul Davis and Mr. Roberts of WCIA, Champaign discuss longtime rumors about them being related on the final newscast anchored by Paul Davis. This is from the late 1970s.

CBS Promos for a number of CBS programs

A Selection of CBS Shows from 1981-2000

CBS Programming 1981-1991 

A Selection of Syndicated Shows from 1981-2000

PM Magazine

PM Magazine was a syndicated concept light feature news magazine that included segments produced by Westinghouse Broadcasting and its affiliate partners.  Each station would have its hosts introducing each segment and featuring local sites as background.  Each location would tie into a particular segment featured in a show.  The series was broadcast Monday-Friday during "prime time access" or from 6:30-7 pm (CT). 

At WCIA, the PM Magazine was a separate department within the station and operated independently from the operation of Channel 3.  It was hosted during the early 1980s by Steve Traynor, Suzanne Kaye, then Carrie White, and Van King (1987-89), followed by Carrie White and John Valenziono-1987-1989.  Not pictured here: Mike Caplin.   

A promo for PM Magazine recorded on Saturday, February 13, 1982, from WCIA. It featured the hosts: Steve Traynor and Suzanne Kaye.


This particular segment was introduced locally at WDAN Radio in Danville, Illinois.  It was shot in before the WDAN Gates SP8-10 automation system which was the operating system at the station in 1982. To see more about radio automation and how it worked visit the History of WDAN



TV Guide ad for PM Magazine from the Doug Quick Collection.

This is a complete edition of PM Magazine as recorded on September 19, 1983, on WCIA. The hosts are Steve Traynor and Suzanne Kaye. It was broadcast on the evening of the final episode of M*A*S*H on CBS.

WCIA University of Illinois Basketball 1981 Broadcast from WCIA. Dave Shaul and Dan Roan of WCIA did the play by play/color.

WCIA Aircheck from "Star Trek" Broadcast in 1982. "Star Trek" from a 16mm print. This includes many promos from the era.

Here is a topical promo segment for one of the worst episodes of "Star Trek" broadcast on WCIA on Saturday, February 13, 1982.

Saturday Matinee aircheck from 1981 featuring the movie "The Bank Dick" with W.C. Fields. Look for Ed Mason doing a commercial for Curtis Mathis TV/VCRs. Does anybody still have a "lifetime" membership to the Video Tape Club at a Curtis Mathis Showroom?

WCIA's broadcast of "The Horn Blows at Midnight" starring Jack Benny during the late Show from 1982.

WCIA "Reach for the Stars" promo from 1982

This aircheck is from a Monday in December of 1987 and includes a news promo with Jerry Slabe.

Muscular Dystrophy Telethons

This salutes the many years that WCIA carried and participated in the Muscular Dystrophy Telethon, which was hosted in part by Judy Fraser. This is from WCIA's "The Vault" and was posted on YouTube.

Jerry Slabe
News Anchor

Jerry Slabe began his TV career at the ill-fated WJJY, Channel 14 in Jacksonville, Illinois, after being a radio broadcaster in his native Wisconsin. After his time in the late 1960s and very early 70s, he would move along with fellow Channel 14 workmate Mike Cheevers to WAND, Channel 17 in Decatur. There he would be a reporter and eventually would become the station's chief anchor.

He left WAND after the Easter 1978 Ice Storms, which destroyed the Channel 17 broadcast tower near Argenta-Oreana. Coincidentally enough, that same storm also collapsed the former Channel 14 tower. From WAND, he would move to WCIA as the lead anchor during the final years of the Paul Davis news director tenure. He moved into the role held by the long-serving Paul Davis quite well and would lead the central Illinois regional news powerhouse well through the remainder of the 20th Century.

During that time, he would marry a reporter/anchor at WCIA, Marta Carreira. When Midwest Television sold the station, Nexstar purged virtually all the longtime regular reporters/anchors who presumably weighed down the station's payroll. Mr. Slabe and Ms. Carreira were two who would lose their position at Channel 3.

The couple would not go quietly as both would battle Nexstar on demands that the new owner had allegedly made to get them to resist and give the company a reason to fire the couple.

The Slabes would challenge the action in court and, by 2008, resulted in a judgment in favor of the former anchors. The Slabes received back pay, plus the dollar value of some of their other contract benefits during the period through the completion of their original contract.  The story was detailed in Jim Dey's column from the Champaign News-Gazette from Saturday, March 29, 2008.

Marta Carreira would establish herself in a law career in the Chicago area while Jerry Slabe retired.

WCIA News Over the Decades, 1970-2020

Late 1970s WCIA News Open

WCIA News/Weather Promo from Feb 13, 1982

WCIA News Close from 1983 with Dan Roan, Judy Fraser

Early 1980s WCIA News Open

WCIA News Promo from 1982

Dave Brandon anchors a business segment from 1994.

WCIA News 1970s-80s

WCIA News 1970s-90s

WCIA News 1990s

WCIA News 2000-2018


Judy Fraser
WCIA Weathercaster

Judy Fraser's TV roots take her back to her home state of Wisconsin, where she attended the University of Wisconsin and majored in speech communications. She worked as a weathercaster program host at a local TV station and even under the "Romper Room" franchise as "Miss Judy." 

From there, she would end up in Boston, Massachusetts, on WHDH, a CBS affiliate, as host of "AM America." She also served as a talent for several national commercials,  which were seen in many of the major markets in the Northeast and Midwest major markets.

She moved to WCIA in 1976, where she would be the heir apparent to WCIA's Mr. Roberts. She would serve as a weekday weathercaster and often filled in for Mr. Roberts through the early 80s.


During the 1980s, after the passing of Mr. Roberts, she would serve as the 5, 6, and 10 weathercasters for WCIA through the early 2000s. She often served as the face of WCIA and represented the station in the many community groups she was involved in and before many as a guest speaker.

She also hosted the MDA Jerry Lewis Telethon for many years, broadcast on Channel 3 (see above).



In 2003 Jennifer Roscoe and Michael Marsh (main achors at the time) hosted an Anniversary Special and brought back a number of significant employees on/off air to reflect on their time at WCIA. Here are the people we saw...

WCIA's Central Illinois Sister Station, Channel 49, Springfield, IL

W-49-AA went on the air in 1967 as a 100% simulcast of WCIA, Channel 3. It was to help solve reception issues for viewers in Springfield when even the VHF signal of Channel 3 wouldn't deliver even a "B" grade signal to the central Illinois population center. Earlier, Midwest Television applied for Channel 26 as a full-powered UHF station to accomplish the same thing in response to WICS applying for WCHU, originally to broadcast a full-power UHF station on channel 21.  In the Spring of 1967, WICD, Channel 15 was proposed to sign on with a full-powered UHF station for east-central Illinois (replacing low-powered WCHU(33) and WICD(24)). Channel 15 would bring a competitor to WCIA.

Perhaps it was an agreement between the WICS and WCIA to limit the significance of the respective translator stations, but that's probably unlikely. I'm not sure why the channel 26 requests by Midwest Television for a proposed WCIA translator were never acted on. Still, later in the early-mid 1960s, the allocation for channel 49 was moved from Jacksonville, Illinois, to Springfield, Illinois, with the request to be used as a low-powered translator WCIA.  It would go on the air in 1967, the same period that WICD(15) would go on the air in WCIA's backyard.

Channel 49 would later be spun off as an affiliate of the new UPN network, then later as a MyTV network affiliate. It would program several info-commercials and off-network and original syndicated programming. It would also simulcast or serve as an extension to WCIA's local newscast with a morning show broadcast from 7 am to 9 am and for a prime-time half-hour newscast.

In the 2010s, a more aggressive branding approach was taken with a call letter change to WCIX. The station still programs primetime shows from the MyTV network.


Pete Barrett
Former WCIA Production Manager

Pete (pictured here with Doug Quick) is heading up the effort of maintaining and building the WCIA archive called "The Vault." He and his crew have created methods using new digital technology to convert film stock and videotape to digital images. That product produces news, online features, and a weekly program that broadcasts segments of Channel 3's past. Pete retired in late Spring of 2022.


WCIA Studio Scenes 2018

A Selection of CBS Shows from 2000-2018

Let me introduce you to Gary Hackler, A WCIA former general manager. Gary and I go back to our days in Danville radio, working at competing stations during the 1980s. In 1994, he was in the sales department of WICD and helped me get hired at Channel 15 as a promotions director.

He later left WICD and moved to WCIA, first in the role as an account executive and was eventually named station manager. He left in late 2019.

I'm proud of his career accomplishments and to call him a friend. Congrats, Gary, and thanks for allowing me to tell the story of WCIA in my book "Pictures on the Prairie" and here at Central Illinois On-Line Broadcast Museum.

      ---Doug Quick

The Future History of WCIA

I've always strongly advocated for broadcast stations to maintain and document their heritage. Most do not. Most broadcasting stations deal in the here and now and do nothing to keep a public record of their history, past local programming, news, and other items that could be used for public records.

WCIA is the only station in central Illinois that has respect for its heritage and is expanding it by building a digital database of all of the film, videotape, and digital libraries of the past and present.

Production Director Pete Barrett and other staff members took on the task of building the station's record for viewing in the future.

You can access what they do by clicking on "The Vault" to see some of the work done to maintain the history of WCIA.

WCIA Images 2019

Click on "from the Vault" to see WCIA's archive webpage featuring many videos from what was central Illinois only commercial VHF station. 

(thanks to WCIA)

Broadcasting-Telecasting Magazine
The Urbana Courier Newspaper
The News-Gazette Newspaper
The Decatur Herald Newspaper
The Bloomington Pantagraph Newspaper
The Danville Commercial-News Newspaper
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch Newspaper
TV Guides (1964-1969) from the Doug Quick Collection

Pictures on the Prairie: The First Ten Years of Mid-Illinois              Television by Doug Quick
Danville Public Library
Champaign Public Library
Decatur Public Library
Urbana Free Library

You Tube
The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network TV Shows
      by Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh
Total Television by Alex McNeil

Bob Lee for the vast majority of the program titles screen grabs
Ed Mason and the Ed Mason Collection
Paul Davis
Bill Roberts
Gary Hackler
Pete Barrett
John Steege(son-in-law of Harold Bradley)
Oliver Bradley
Kevin and Michaela Brown
Downey Hewey

Matt Metcalf

Justin West
Marvin Lee
The Doug Quick YouTube Channel
John Slattery(who was a reporter and weekend anchor from 1976-77, now at WCBS-TV, New York)
Tom McDonald who identified more WCIA/WMBD personalities pictured above

Brian Shankman

Kevin Johnson

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