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The History of WICS, Channel 20, Springfield, IL


NBC Shows from 1965-1980

WICS Improvements/Planning 

Like the other stations in the market, WICS made the complete change over to color during the 1960s. With the threat of having channel 2 in its backyard being over, Plains Television Partners made a major commitment to central Illinois viewers with the building of a huge TV studio/office complex on Springfield's east side. This along with the erection of a new taller tower in 1958 would be a part of an expansion effort that would bring virtually all of the central Illinois market NBC programming.

Combining the signals of WICS with WCHU, Channel 33 in Champaign, and WICD, Channel 24 in Danville increased the audience of the Plains Television stations to nearly that of Midwest Television's WCIA, Channel 3. That enabled WICS to compete on the level of attracting central Illinois viewers to nearly an equal plain to its major competitor.

Even as WCHU went on the air in 1960, plans were being made to bring a full-powered station to east central Illinois which would re-broadcast the signal of WICS and bring a city-grade signal to an even larger area than that of WCIA. Meanwhile, WICS would struggle with the technical limitations of WCHU and WICD.  Read more about those struggles in "Pictures on the Prairie" available by clicking on the link above. Also, you'll learn more about that full-powered east central Illinois station at the WICD page (which is coming soon).


When WICS moved from the former Leland Hotel studios, it moved into a large facility located at 2680 East Cook Street in Springfield. This facility would house the station for many years to come even after bringing the operations of the GoCom stations (WRSP, WCCU, and WBUI) into the fold in the 2010s. In modern times it also serves as the operations hub for several other Sinclair stations as well.

In the early days, the WICS studios would allow for cars to be driven into the studios as well as for the many children's shows which included a studio audience as well as a panel of local kids. Unfortunately, those local children's shows would end with the abundance of syndicated sitcoms. The time slots would also be occupied by adult fare as well as syndicated shows like, "The Mike Douglas Show," "The John Gary Show" and "The Merv Griffin Show."

WICS News Anchors


News anchors and reporters like Douglas Kimball would be replaced by Wayne Cox (formerly of WBLN), who would anchor through the 1960s to the 1970s. Others in the news staff included: Dale Coleman, Nick Alexander, Kyle Hill, Dave Lange, Alan Crane, and others.


Syndicated Programming

WICS would add syndicated shows ranging from the videotaped talk shows mentioned above to "Superman," "The Lloyd Thaxton Show," "Bilko," "The Galloping Gourmet," "David Frost," "Hazel," "Dinah Shore," "Girl Talk" and movies on Saturday and Sunday nights and a rather unique Sunday morning movie series. WICS would broadcast St. Louis Cardinal Baseball during the era as well. 


WICS Network Pre-emptions


WICS would often time preempt NBC for the airing of local origination programming during the prime time during the month following a rating period. These paid commercial programs would pop up in March, June, August, and even December.  This probably wasn't met favorably by NBC, but it seems that it didn't stop WICS from doing it. WICS would air paid religious programs by a professional evangelist, as well as paid info-commercials on behalf of charitable organizations. Although, that wasn't all. WICS would preempt NBC programming to air syndicated programs during prime time, in which the station could charge prime rates to more advertisers as there was more commercial time available during those syndicated shows. 

One of the more "infamous" pre-emptions was that of "Star Trek" which was replaced by airing off-network reruns of "Laramie." Some shows were pre-empted by reruns of, "The Gallant Men." That resulted in many complaints by viewers and the eventual reversal of the pre-emption as well as WICS being one of the first stations to add "Star Trek" by off-network syndication.  WICS also pre-empted "Saturday Night Live" for a long period of time replacing it with a local-originated movie which allowed for more local ad sales than what was available during "SNL."  Champaign's sister station was allowed to break from the WICS program schedule and it would air "Saturday Night Live" as broadcast on NBC.


Before 1967, in order to bring WICS and NBC programming across central and east-central Illinois, it took 4 TV signals. That of Channel 20(WICS) in Springfield, Channel 33(WCHU) in Champaign, Channel 24,(WICD) in Danville and Channel 75(W-75-AD) in Mattoon, Illinois.

It was called the "Laramie" peacock because it was first used at the introduction of "Laramie" the first season it was produced/broadcast in color in 1962.


This was the 1965-66 Season Premiere Video produced for NBC Sales.

As mentioned above, WICS frequently pre-empted prime time programming to insert its own programming. Most of the time it was to air more big dollar commercials during syndicated programming. When "Star Trek" premiered, it was pre-empted by WICS for off-network reruns of "Laramie." Here was a TV Guide® entry for just such a pre-emption.
(from Doug Quick Collection of TV Guide®}

WICD, Channel 15 was the result of a merger between two relatively lower powered sister stations of WICS. WCHU, Channel 33 in Champaign only broadcast a radius of about 15 miles from downtown Champaign. Meanwhile, WICD in Danville broadcast a signal of about 30 miles from Danville. The low powered translator on channel 75 in Mattoon probably didn't broadcast much more than a few miles from Mattoon.  That left a huge part of the rural areas including Charleston, Tuscola, and other east-central communities without NBC network service from 1959 through 1967. 

When the station was to go on the air in late January or early February of 1967, the area suffered a major ice storm.  This ice storm would bring down the newly constructed WICD tower.  The ad from TV Guide® above announced the reconstruction of the new tower which would bring WICD, Channel 15 to full power by the Summer of 1967.

During the Summer of 1967, the new WICD(channel 15) would go on the air from the tallest (tower)structure in the state of Illinois at the time. This full-powered, full-color facility would replace Channel 33, 24 and 75 in central Illinois and would bring rural viewers from Crawfordsville, Indiana to Decatur, Illinois NBC programming.

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

The picture with WICS staff members was taken sometime in the last days of "The Virginian" or during the 1974-75 era of "Lucas Tanner" which aired on NBC. Pictured are WICS staff members Robert Wilson and John McKinney.
(picture courtesy of Teresa Wilson Ericson, daughter of Robert Wilson)
You can see Robert Wilson in WICS's early history as a cast member of "Pegwill's Circus"

Acri Creature Feature

Many might remember the "Acri Creature Feature" which ran late Saturday nights. It was hosted by Chuck Acri a businessman who also ran a home improvement company in the Quad Cities. This popular horror movie feature was produced at WQAD, Channel 8 in Moline, Illinois, and was syndicated to KCRG-TV(Cedar Rapids, Iowa), along with WEEK-TV(Peoria), and across central Illinois on WICS and WICD. 

His characters were Vincent Hedges(a vampire), Emmit(the hunchback), Beauregard(the caveman), and Bertie and Bernie(the skull). The dog was Fang, the Wonderdog. A website has all the details about the "Acri Creature Feature"

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

On Sunday mornings when other TV stations were offering religious or public affairs programming, WICS and WICD were giving us the "Sunday Morning Movie." During most of its run in the late 1960s and 70s, it was sponsored by the local Lincoln-Mercury dealership in Springfield, Railsplitters Motors. Most commercials were either done live or live on tape from the studios of WICS. The cars would be driven into the new WICS studio where up to four vehicles could be featured at one time! Railsplitters would go on to sponsor the Sunday night movie as well, "The Sunday Cinema."

A short voice over promo for NBC Saturday Night at the Movies from 1975.


This was produced to promote the 1975-76 Fall Preview Special. 

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


The Resignation of President Nixon as covered by NBC, August 8, 1974.


NBC Daytime Love (1975) promo for daytime dramas seen on NBC and WICS



Pictured above are several graphics from the show along with Chevy Chase who was only there during the 1975-76 season, but he's probably one of the best-known alumni of the show.  John Belushi who was with the show from 1975 to 1979, Gilda Radner and Jane Curtin were there from 1975-1980.  Others who have spent time there included Garrett Morris, Laraine Newman, Bill Murray, Albert Brooks, Don Novello, Paul Shaffer, Al Franken, Tom Davis, Gilbert Gottfried, Joe Piscopo, Charles Rocket, Eddie Murphy, Robin Duke, Tim Kazurinsky and Denny Dillon.  All of these stars were there before 1982

Saturday Night Live

It was originally called "NBC's Saturday Night" and premiered on October 11, 1975.  The situation with WICS/WICD was unique when it came to Saturday Night Live.  It seems that Saturday Night Live replaced a time period in which local stations previously programmed it to air movies and other syndicated programming.  In the case of WICS/WICD, it was a late movie. 

It was felt by the management of the time that WICS would be better served by keeping the late movie and airing the local commercials.  It was simply more profitable, since airing the NBC show would limit the time available for local commercials.  It was also known that the show would probably rile some advertisers which would make it difficult to sell to local ad buyers.  It was decided WICD being in a more liberal university community would air the 1970's version of SNL. 

A few years into the split schedule between the two stations, it was decided by WICS that WICD should drop "Saturday Night Live" and air the WICS late movie.  It appears to have been a decision of new WICD Station Manager Joe Norris.  That was in April of 1978.  Local SNL fans objected in a big fact the backlash was huge!  Local pickets, letters, boycotts, and threats were made.....and the decision was reversed in a matter of a couple of weeks.  By early May of 1978 "Saturday Night Live" returned to WICD, while WICS continued it's airing of their own "Saturday Night Movie" at least for a while.  It's unknown when WICS finally signed on with Saturday Night Live, but it was AFTER 1979.

Flip Spiceland

Flip was WICS weathercaster for the six and ten-PM newscasts from 1973 to 1979. He later would be at CNN for over 20 years and at WXIA in Atlanta before moving to a role in public relations and working for the United Way in Atlanta. 

(pictures from WICS and Flip Spiceland)

1976 Fall TV montage of shows broadcast during the week.


This is a special hour-long NBC News as broadcast from November 20, 1977.
(You Tube)

Linda Ellerby doing an NBC News Update from 1977. "....and so it goes."


A 1979 NBC promo for the premiere network broadcasts of "Escape to Witch Mountain" and "The Towering Inferno" narrated by Casey Kasem. 


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

The 1979 intro to "The Wonderful World of Disney" as broadcast on NBC and WICS.


TV Guide® Ads for WICS
(from the Doug Quick Collection of TV Guide®) 

NBC Shows from 1981-2005

The "Real People" Express visits Springfield, IL 


"Real People" was a reality-based variety show which gave a number of "real" people/groups their 15-minutes of fame in front of a national audience. They might have had a strange talent, demonstrated a stunt, had a peculiar occupation....I think you get the idea. It as done with a panel which included John Barbour, Sarah Percell, Byron Allen, Skip Stephenson, Bill Rafferty, Mark Russell, Fred Willard and even Peter Billingsley(of "Christmas Story").

"Real People" ran from 1979 to 1984 on NBC. In 1983, as part of a publicity stunt, the cast toured the country via a train called the "Real People Express." The train would stop in as many of the NBC affiliate home towns as possible amid fans and local media.  Pictured below are few snapshots from their visit in Springfield, IL supplied by WICS.

Off-network shows were syndicated in 30-minute versions and in central Illinois appeared on WMBD-TV, Peoria as well as sister station WCIA in Champaign. The syndicated version aired in the 6:30-7pm time weekday evening slot

Click here to view a video of a news segment on the people trying out for a "Real People" segment from

Here's a sample segment from "Real People" about an ugly dog contest. 

1988 was the 50th anniversary of Springfield's Mel-O-Cream Donuts and Dave Heller did a report on the local company.


The Final Years of Plains Television Partners and WICS

WICS continued to be owned by Plains Television Partners from its beginnings through 1986 and co-owned with sister station WICD in Champaign. The owners of Plains Television Partners were Harry and Elmer Balaban, the two younger brothers of Barney Balaban, who was the head of Paramount Pictures during the 1940s and '50s. Besides ownership of the two central Illinois TV stations, the Balaban brothers' company, H and E Balaban Corporation entered into a partnership in 1959 with Transcontinental Properties to purchase WNBC-TV, Channel 30 from NBC. The call letters of WNBC-TV were transferred soon after to NBC's network o-and-o in New York in 1960. At that time the station's call letters were changed to WHNB-TV.


Along with television, Elmer Balaban also owned a number of local radio stations in medium-size markets around the country.  By 1978, WHNB-TV was sold to Viacom, while the Balaban's retained their Plains Television Partners stations WICS and WICD.  Plains ownership of WICS would come to a close in 1986 when the NBC affiliate in the Illinois state capital city was sold to Guy Gannett Publications of Portland, Maine. 

It's unknown why the Balaban's held onto the Champaign property.  The relationship of the two central Illinois NBC affiliates was so intertwined that it would be questionable that either one could continue to be successful without the other.

Programming WICS from 1979 to 1986

By 1979, the WICS broadcast day began at 6:30 am and sign-off on weeknights followed the “Tomorrow” show hosted by Tom Snyder, at around 1 am. The Saturday morning sign-on was at 6:30 am as well with the syndicated “U.S. Farm Report.” The rest of the morning consisted of typical children's programming from NBC including more modern versions of classic fare like “Fred and Barney Meet the Schmoo” and the re-worked Warner Brothers cartoons with “Daffy Duck” and a modern rework of “Casper.”

On Saturday afternoon NBC would broadcast baseball during the major league season, while empty time slots were often filled with other off-network series reruns like “The Odd Couple.” The midday on Saturdays also included various locally produced and syndicated public affairs programs. The titles included “City Life,” “Advance Notice” and “Saturday Report.” All three of which were simulcast on sister station WICD in Champaign. There was no Saturday, 6 pm newscast, scheduled instead of the syndicated first-run comedy/variety show “Hee Haw” which would air from 5 to 6 pm. NBC filled the post late news time with sporting events, along with “Saturday Night Live.” WICS would follow “SNL” with a videotaped replay of its own 10 pm news. WICD would follow with a play of its public affairs program “Assignment 15.”


On Sundays, WICS would sign on at 6:30 am with a block of religious programming and public affairs. Some of the religious shows included “Jimmy Swaggart”, “Herald of Truth” and “Faith for Today.” Sometime in the 1960s, WICS began a tradition of airing a movie at 9:30 am. (see above) The movies included many of Hollywood’s classic films from the Warner Brothers and MGM libraries. It was sponsored by Railsplitters Lincoln-Mercury which would either do live or recorded commercials in the studio with featured vehicles both new and used. By the late 1970's most of the films were from a less than a classic package of films. Most were from the former ABC “Movie of the Week” TV movie catalog of films. There were some TV classics there, such as the acclaimed “Brian's Song” but most were very forgettable. That movie run would fill the 9:30 to 11 or 11:15 am time slot.


During football season, NBC would air the AFC early football game and WICS/WICD would follow with a replay of “Capitol Conference,” than a local movie insertion....yet another TV movie, usually. “Mutual of Omaha's the Wild Kingdom” would follow at 5 pm, then the NBC national newscast before prime time and “Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color.” After the 10 pm local newscast, both WICS/WICD would follow, more than likely, with the broadcast of yet another TV movie before sign-off.

Weekday programming in 1979 on WICS included the typical NBC daytime schedule of game and daytime dramas and locally originated off-network television series from the '60s and '70s. During the 1979-1980 TV season, the WICS weekday schedule followed “Today” at 9am with the first run weekday syndicated “Dating Game” followed by the NBC daytime schedule which was solid through3pm. The NBC lineup included “Hollywood Squares,” “High Rollers,” “Wheel of Fortune,” “Mind Readers,” “Password Plus,” “Days of Our Lives,” “Doctors” and “Another World.” By3pm, the lineup featured all syndicated off-network fare, including “I Love Lucy,” “Gilligan's Island,” “Batman,” “The Brady Bunch” and “Happy Days, Again"(the syndicated title of “Happy Days”). The syndicated block was followed by a “flip-flop” of local news and network news on WICS and sister station WICD.

I assume that because of the increased head-to-head competition with WCIA in Champaign, management at the time felt it beneficial to move the WICD local newscast to the 5:30 pm slot, while WICS would continue with the 6 pm slot, where it saw wide viewership. Both stations would air the NBC Nightly News but WICS would air it at its more traditional time at 5:30 pm, while WICD would follow its local news broadcast with the NBC news.

The prime-time access slot after the news block was filled by the weekday syndicated version of “The Newlywed Game” at 6:30 pm. The rest of the weekday schedule was filled with NBC programming, with a local newscast at 10 pm. “The Tonight Show” followed, then “Tomorrow” would end the broadcast day.



WICS Sold by Plains Television Partners to Guy Gannett Communications

The SangamonLink has posted about historical highlights for Sangamon County including a story about WICS television history, in which it credits me as a source. A link to the page for WICS is here, just click on the button above.

There should be one correction, though. It states that WICD was also purchased by Guy Gannett Communications in 1986. That is false. It wasn't purchased by Guy Gannett until 1994. Plains Television Partners held onto WICD making it the final property owned by the company before finally selling to Guy Gannett.

Click on the button to see the program schedule from the dates indicated above. Please note that the schedule for WICD and WICS were virtually identical.

This is a 1996 report on a local Springfield pastry tradition, Mel-O-Cream Donuts.


This is a recording of the "A" block of a newscast from WICS in early May of 1997. 
(You Tube)

This is a complete newscast from August 1999 with Don Hickman and Susan Finzen.


Click on the button to see the program schedule from the dates indicated above. Please note that the schedule for WICD and WICS were virtually identical.

Gus Gordon-weather

Gus Gordon at WICS

Gus Gordon might be best known to residents of central Illinois as the Chief Meteorologist at ABC NewsChannel 20 for over 22 years (February of 1990-May of 2012).

He left his position at NewsChannel 20 at the end of May 2012 to become the full-time Artistic Director at the Hoogland Center for the Arts in Springfield, Illinois. Gordon was named the Executive Director of the Hoogland Center for the Arts on February 1, 2013.

--from Gus Gordon's Linkedin profile

The Sinclair Era 1998-2005

Guy Gannett Sells Out


In September 1998, Guy Gannett's family stockholders decided to sell off the company which consisted of various newspapers and television properties.  The stations in the group were sold off to Sinclair Broadcast Group, which sold off a couple of the seven Ganette properties to other companies.  The WICS/WICD pair were in transition and sold to Sunrise Broadcasting which was partially owned by a holding group which also owned LIN Broadcasting, owner of market competitor WAND.  The sale wasn't allowed by the FTC due to duopoly rules (shareholders of LIN also were part of Sunrise), so Sinclair held onto the stations along with sister station KGAN in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  Sinclair ownership continued with the NBC affiliation until September 2005.  The years of Guy Gannett ownership begins this era, as well as the sale of WICD (and WICS) to Sinclair in 1998.  This page also includes the "limbo" era in which Sinclair held the properties before deciding to hold on to a long-time Illinois duopoly.  This page also covers the final years of affiliation with NBC prior to September 5th, 2005.

WICS News Staff 2009-2013

WICS Network Switch to ABC

During the Summer of 2004, it was announced that WAND would become the market's NBC station.  This left WICS and WICD without a major network affiliation.  Later in the year, Sinclair signed the stations with ABC.  The switch was to take place on Labor Day of 2005.

The switch ended up being one of the most confusing things to happen to local TV since the advent of cable TV.  While the network programming would shift from one set of stations to another, the syndicated shows would remain on the original stations, with some shifting time slots.  

ABC Shows 2005-present

Click on the button to see the program schedule from the dates indicated above. Please note that the schedule for WICD and WICS were virtually identical.


From 2009, this weather promo features Gus Gordon, Joe Crain and Danny Russell.


This is a clip from August 17, 2010 and the 5pm show. It features Elizabeth Wooley, Jerry Lambert, and reporter Catie Sheehan.


Click on the button to see the program schedule from the dates indicated above. Please note that the schedule for WICD and WICS were virtually identical.

In 2012 WICS Anchor Jerry Lambert retired from the anchor desk. This is a clip of the event.


Click on the button to see the program schedule from the dates indicated above. Please note that the schedule for WICD and WICS were virtually identical.

In 2013 WICS underwent the first major step into digital broadcasting with the conversion of its master control. Included in this gallery are pictures of its master control pre-2011 and its conversion to a totally digital high-definition broadcast facility.

(pictures from Joe Crain)

One long-time fixture on NewsChannel 20 Joe Crain shows what made him Springfield's favorite weather guy. This is from 2013.



April 22, 2015, the NewsChannel 20 6pm newscast.


Help me identify people in these pictures, some I know, but others I do not. Just drop me a note at the form on the Home page.


Click on the button to see the program schedule from the dates indicated above. Please note that the schedule for WICD and WICS were virtually identical.

WICS News Staff 2014-2019

Before the high-def conversion, here is the 6 pm Newscast from WICS, Channel 20 from July 7, 2011. Anchors Jerry Lambert and Marianne Manko are featured with weathercaster Kelly Curran.


From August 12, 2016, the 10pm newscast from WICS, Channel 20.


Here is a segment from a weekday feature on a local farmer's market with Thomas Patrick and an interview conducted by Joe Crain.



This is a WICS 10 pm weathercast from February 4, 2014. It features Ric Kearbey, Liz Foster, Vince DeMentri, Shantel Middleton, Brett Baldeck, Garrett Brnger, and Donnie Tillman.


This is a 10 pm newscast from February 24, 2016.


This is a 2018 clip from Sunrise with Joe Crain and an explanation of the eventual controversial weather warning..



WICS 60 years of logos



Network screen grabs were from the collection of Bob Lee

WICS for the studio talent pictures

Les Vann 

Jo Warfield for sharing her recollections

YouTube videos are the property of the individual copyright holders and only posted for their historical significance. They are subject to removal by the contributors and YouTube.


Randy Miller for his picture contributions
Broadcasting-Telecasting Magazine
The Illinois State Journal-Register
The Urbana Courier Newspaper
The News-Gazette
The Decatur Herald-Review Newspaper
The Bloomington Pantagraph
TV Guide (1954-1959) from the Doug Quick Collection
Lincoln Library-Springfield
Danville Public Library
Champaign Public Library
Decatur Public Library
Urbana Free Library

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

Bob Lee for the vast majority of program titles screen grabs
WICS, Channel 20, Springfield, Rick Lipps
Cindy Larson and others at WICS
Randy Miller and his Facebook Photo Collection
Teresa Wilson Ericson
Ann Marshall
J.R. Evans
Joe Crain
Scott Baer
Neuhoff Broadcasting-Danville
James Isley
Kathryn Dinardo
Dave Heller (who produced the 40th Anniversary of WICS and a number of screengrabs were taken)
Creative Services at WICS during the 60th Anniversary of WICS from which the recreation of the WICS logo (1st in Springfield) was included as the first graphic of this page

YouTube videos are the property of the individual copyright holders and only posted for their historical significance. 
 They are subject to removal by the contributors and YouTube.

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