Channel 15, Champaign, Illinois
2: The Plains
Television/WCHU-TV/WICD-TV Years (1960-1967)
Here's an ad
TV Guide from 1958 announcing the new WICS broadcast tower which made
the prospect of adding a satellite television station in Champaign a
possibility. It would "infringe"on the Champaign-Urbana
and WCIA. It wasn't for another 6 years before WCIA would do
likewise and add W-49-AA to broadcast WCIA's signal in
Springfield. WCHU would re-broadcast the off air signal of
from it's 800 foot tower east of Springfield near Mechanicsburg,
originally went on the air in 1953 with studios at the LeLand Hotel in
downtown Springfield and transmitter sight located at the WCVS radio
transmitter sight on South Fourth Street in Southern View, a suburb
of Springfield. The original broadcast antenna for
located on top of a 400-foot self supporting three legged tower which
served as the antenna for WCVS radio. A new 900
tower/transmitter sight at Mechanicsburg, Illinois completed in 1958
made it possible to
construct a satellite station in Champaign, Illinois. That
satellite station, some 90 miles
east, would rebroadcast WICS-TV and bring Champaign-Urbana television
from a primary NBC affiliate.
on WCHU began in November of 1958, and the station originally went on
the air in September of
1959 as a low power UHF station and a translator of
The original coverage of
area of WCHU was estimated to be no more than 15 miles from the
transmitter site at the Inman Hotel in downtown Champaign.
power output on the new WCHU was 5.5 kilowatts visual and 2.96
kilowatts aural from a short antenna mounted on top of the Inman Hotel
in downtown Champaign, the corner of Neil and University.
WCHU was to
receive an off air signal
of WICS for rebroadcast from a receiver also located
the roof of the Inman Hotel. It didn't take long to see that
assumption of getting an airable signal from WICS all of the time was a
mistake. Weather conditions, the time of day and other bouts
interference from the downtown area contributed in a less than reliable
signal from WICS.
WICS beginning in
was on it's 900-foot tower at Mechanicsburg broadcasting at 500
kilowatts. To expect a good broadcast quality signal all of
from 90 miles was a stretch even in the best of
receiving antenna on top of the Inman Hotel was a large parabolic style
antenna with signal amplifiers, but it just didn't work.
year an application was filed for, and permission was granted by the
the construction of a receiver on the north west side of Champaign
along U.S. 150. This receiving antenna would be on a 150-foot
receive WICS then microwave the signal to the studios at the Inman
On September 13th, 1959
WCHU was ready to expand it's broadcast day with the construction
completed on the microwave link from it's new receiving antenna north
west of Champaign.
The full page ad in the Champaign-Urbana Courier which announced
the "Broadcast in Earnest" of WCHU, Champaign-Urbana's first UHF TV
Station. This was in October of 1959, when the station
signed-on with a limited schedule on April 25th, 1959.
It was reported the station now
"in earnest." A special insert in the Champaign-Urbana
following month featured the programming and details on the future
plans of the station to include some local origination with a newly
constructed studio on the second floor of the Inman Hotel.
WCHU included Vice President Milton Friedland who was with WICS since
1953 and would oversee the operation at WCHU as well. Jerry
Chief Engineer and Jack Hoskins was Program Director. All of
those personnel would be located at WICS. At WCHU the staff
and Mrs. Harry Eskew. Mr Eskew was from technical services at
would oversee the new station in Champaign. His wife was a
Traffic Manager and would serve as Office Manager at the
Meanwhile Jerry Dodds was serving as Account Executive and Bob Daniels
was serving as Announcer. Other Engineers on staff included
Thorp and Glen Horton.
In July of 1960, the license
holder for WCHU,
WCHU, Inc., went through a name change. The original
was dissolved which according to a newspaper account in the
Champaign-Urbana Courier, would permit "the consolidation of interest
by it's present company" Plains Television Partners. By that
the Danville Commerical-News parent company Northwest Publishing was
ready to dump it's local television property,
ownership of yet another television station in the market was a natural
to expand the reach of WICS. This would allow WICS
or exceed the coverage area of competitor WCIA in getting the ad
dollars of regional and national advertisers. With the change
the license holder name it would allow all three stations to operate
under the Plains Television name. Remember now, that
WCHU was a translator of WICS, and was an NBC affiliate.
was operating as an ABC affiliate in Danville. The idea of
ownership of more than one station, with separate network affiliation
in the same market was unheard of at the time. In spite of
the press release stated that Plains having ownership of the two
stations, WCHU and WDAN "would have no effect on the operation of the
TV stations in Champaign or Danville." That was a total
un-truth. The writing should have been on the wall, since the
coverage area of both stations, had very little overlap, it should have
been obvious that now both stations would be used as translators for
Late in 1960, the exact date is unclear, but Northwest Publishing,
owner of WDAN-TV sold the station to Plains Television
Partners which then renamed the station WICD-TV to become a satellite
WCHU which was a satellite of WICS in Springfield. The
Manager of WICD was Ralph Johnson. The original
studios on North Washington Street in Danville after the sale, was
leased from Northwest Publishing. The original facility also
the WDAN-AM studio and transmitter while the television station was
located there. Later
during the early and mid 1960's Champaign's
WCHU did originate local programming which was simulcast on
including local news, children's programming and local
By August of 1960 it was announced that WCHU should be able to
broadcast in color, perhaps by the time of the telecast of the 1960
World Series. Milton D. Friedland made the obvious statement
"color is here to stay....RCA and NBC have made tremendous investments
in developing color TV and will be transmitting every color show they
have." The investment in colorcasting at WCHU was in the
$15-20,000 range. Friedland went on to announce some of the
that would be broadcast in color by WCHU including, "Jack Paar, Perry
Como, Dinah Shore
will all be in color." By then, though,
had been broadcasting in color for three years.
WICD, the Danville sister station would not be broadcasting in
color....yet. It's apparent that the vintage 1953
transmitter of WICD was not capable of being retrofitted to accomodate
the addition of the equipment needed to colorcast. I would
that the investment in colorcasting for the Danville station
was simply not financially practical as a complete new transmitter
would have been required.
With the ability to broadcast in color, it must be said that the only
programming which was broadcast in color came from NBC. A
similar situation which exists today with the broadcasting of high
digital video. It was going to be 10 more years before the
facility would be broadcasting local shows, other than movies, in
Not one to be upstaged by the announcement of the telecasting of the
colorful NBC programming schedule, WCIA's August C. Meyer stated that
WCIA-TV had been able to broadcast the network color shows since
1954. He went on to say that CBS had a limited amount of
shows available. Actually, CBS had no regular color
and wouldn't have until 1966. In fact, CBS was the last of
three networks to have a prime time schedule with any color
programming. This fact had to frustrate the owners of WCIA a
great deal. So much so, that they would be the first to
their local news in color just a few years later.
Part of CBS reluctance to broadcast in color came from the fact that
the color studio equipment had to be purchased from competitor RCA/NBC
which were the patent holders of the technical color
It all goes back to the early 1950's when the color TV standards were
being decided by the FCC. The CBS color system was reported
better in quality, but was not compatible to the millions of TV sets
which were in use even in the early 1950's. The RCA/NBC
was compatible, and after many years and months of hagling by the
technical wizards at both companies, the FCC made a decision, then
overturned their decision to favor the RCA compatible format.
That set the stage in the reluctance of CBS to purchase equipment from
During the late
the ownerships of WTVP and WICS petitioned the FCC for the elimination
of WCIA's broadcasting as the only VHF station in the central Illinois
market. At that time, many TV markets were designated as
VHF(major markets) or UHF(smaller centralized markets). WCIA
continued to fight for years to maintain their dial position,
threatening that a move to UHF would eliminate many square miles of
their coverage area and seriously hurt the the stations economic
success. It would also have in all likelihood split the
Illinois market into two, leaving it with 2 small markets, instead of
one geographically large market. Being able to maintain one
brought more prestige to WCIA, more programming(which was owned by
advertisers in the beginning), and higher local/regional/national ad
rates. It wasn't until 1962 that the threat went away by an
of Congress. In
what was good news for
WCIA became a struggle for
all other UHF broadcasters in the central Illinois market.
only way to even come close to competing against WCIA for national and
regional ad dollars was for WICS to
establish two stations to cover the market. That set the plan
during 1962 in motion for two full power UHF stations to cover the
market by 1967. That plan was announced when a request was
submitted to the FCC in January of 1965. In June of 1966 the
was announced which would replace channels 24 and 33 with a full power
station at channel 21 by 1967.
The control room at WCHU. It simply was to insert local ID
announcements, and perhaps a few local commercials at some
The transcription table(turn table) recorded and played back commercial
messages. There was also a Magnicord reel to reel
deck there as well along with the audio and video control boards.
See the same set up a couple of years later below.
turn table apparently was eliminated from the control room.
the Blake Edwards creation starred Craig
Stevens, Lola Albright and Hope Emerson. Edwards
responsible for the Pink Panther movies later. Peter Gunn was on NBC from 1958 to 1960, before it
went to ABC in 1960.
going to be a big draw in the pre-ESPN
selection was rather
skimpy. It didn't matter
was sports.....and that's all there
(ads from Urbana Courier)
The first version of "The Price is Right" was hosted
by Bill Cullen. The announcer was Don Pardo
who later became the announcer for "Saturday Night
of Programming on WCHU, Channel 33 for Thursday, September
am Today news, interview, variety
9:00 am Say When gamee
9:30 am Play Your Hunch game
10:00 am Price is Right game, hosted by Bill Cullin
10:30 am Concentration game, hosted by Hugh Downs
11:00 am Truth or Consequences game, stunts, hosted by Bob Barker
11:30 am It Could Be You (C) game
12:00 pm News- local news from WICS
12:15 pm George Rank-syn, dramatic anthology (syn-WICS)
12:30 pm Bernie Johnson- variety (from WICS)
12:55 pm News- local news from WICS
1:00 pm Jan Murray game, hosted by Jan Murray
1:30 pm Loretta Young
2:00 pm Young Dr. Malone daytime serial
2:30 pm From These Roots daytime serial
3:00 pm Make Room for Daddy off network syndication to network
pm Here's Hollywood
4:00 pm Three Stooges-syn
4:30 pm Kiddie
5:00 pm Bugs
Bunny- syn, local
5:45 pm NBC News-Huntley/Brinkley Report (NBC)
6:00 pm News, Weather, Sports- (local news from WICS)
6:30 pm Outlaw western
7:30 pm Bat Masterson western, starring Gene Barry
8:00 pm Bachelor Father sit com, starring John Forsyth
8:30 pm Ghost Tales (C) drama
9:00 pm Grouch Marx game, interview, hosted by Groucho
9:30 pm Lock-Up crime drama
10:00 pm News, Weather, Sports- (local newscast from WICS)
10:30 pm Tonight Show hosted by Jack Paar
NBC Network programming indicated in bold and underlined
YOUR TEETH IN “LIVE TV” by Ted Sodergren
started working at
WCHU-TV as a cameraman in early 1963. I was a student at the
University of Illinois pursuing a degree in Radio/Television. I was
hired (after an “audition” of my camerawork) by Bob Lumpp,
Program Manager (he also did our weather show “Window on the
Weather”). I was subsequently engaged in “other duties as
assigned” which included shooting and processing news film,
building sets, driving the station VW bus in the (July
4) parade, etc. WCHU-TV was owned by Plains Television Inc.
also operated WICS-TV in Springfield and WICD-TV in Danville. WCHU-TV
operated on UHF channel 33.
studio, control room and offices were located on the north end of the
second floor of the Inman Hotel in downtown Champaign. The production
studio was unique because of the column in the exact center of the
studio. That meant that the studio was divided into four
“production” areas. One for news, one for weather, one for
interviews and live cut-in commercials, usually done by Keith Page
during the “Tonight Show”. (This space was subsequently used for
the set of “Uncle Otto’s General Store” with my school buddy,
Dave Otto). The last quadrant of the studio was for other uses like
panel discussions at the “counter” that was there. The center
column was used as a live-card stand, hanging space for mics and
other gear and a place for the studio clock.
one-camera station (yes, one camera). The camera was one of the very
earliest Image Orthicon units, a RCA TK 10-A. Being a cameraman
there produced several situations involving quick moves to cards and
sets like News to Weather. If the time had not been sold, these were
masked by quick dips to black then on to the next set. Lightning
camera moves became pretty normal. Another interesting move was to
the “Window on the Weather” intro which started as a shot out the
open window of the studio and then a smooth (kind of) dolly back and
pan to the set and weather person. Also within the studio was an
announce booth where Keith Page recorded the break copy and local
commercials. There was also a bench with a Dage vidicon camera at one
end and a bulletin-type board at the other on which we posted the
closing prices for the stock markets (these pictures were pretty
studio through a (cluttered) glass window was the control room. Access
to the control room was through a door from the hall into the
room that housed the transmitter. The antenna was on the roof of the
Inman Hotel, as I recall. Through the next door you entered into the
control room. To the immediate left was a rudimentary video switcher
and director’s position. Next to that, was the main control area
which consisted of camera control units for the studio and film chain
cameras (CCU’s). This console was topped by a Gates audio board
with a slide projector positioned above it. The projector was used to
display images through the window and onto a screen in the news set.
It usually worked pretty well. Past the control area and through
another door was the projection room. It had slide and film
projectors running into a kinescope (!) camera. Harry Eskew, Chief
Engineer claimed to have enough negative news film, the kinescope
polarity was switched to show a positive image from the negative
film. It was switched back for film spots and break slides. To the
right of the projection room was the (tiny) darkroom. Here we
manually processed negative news film (DuPont 931A which was a
reversal film that could be stopped at negative) since we did not
have the equipment or chemistry to do the full reversal. We manually
loaded the film on stainless steel wire racks that were about 2 feet
by 3 feet with wire dividers at each end to keep the film from
overlapping. Once loaded, the racks were immersed in standard
negative film chemistry in deep narrow tanks built to accommodate the
racks. It was not unusual to see Deke Kurtz run into the studio and
hold a handful of film in front of the air conditioner there to dry
it for editing and insertion into the newscast. There was a small
editing area to the right of the chemistry tanks. That is pretty
much the description of the technical areas of the station.
the corner of the
floor were the station offices: Station Manager, Sales, Traffic,
Program Manager, Reception, and across the hall …News. The
newsroom had teletype machines from UPI and AP. A good deal of our
news was “rip and read” with local stories interspersed. On the
day Kennedy was shot, the bells on the machines rang constantly with
breaking “flash” updates. I can still hear those bells. We
stayed on the air 24 hours during the Kennedy coverage, doing local
impact coverage cut-ins and sleeping, when we could, in a hotel room
next door. These were exciting times to be in live TV that was sadly
underlined by tragedy. We felt that, somehow, in a very small way,
we were part of history.
sketch of WCHU-TV and my times there. By the way, we always referred
to the station as “Television 33” and our phones were answered
accordingly. Bob Lumpp, Program Manager, hated TV stations being
referred to as “Channel 9”, etc. We signed off each night with
the national anthem followed by Leroy Anderson’s “Trumpeter’s
to be a “shoestring” operation but I loved cutting my TV teeth
there and I loved the people! I’ve included a set of photos of the
facilities with captions as I remember. I’m also providing a (from
memory) personnel roster. I hope you enjoy this story as much as I
did living it."
Ted Sodergren 2016
also included a number of rare valuable pictures which are included
below. I thank Ted so much for his valuable contribution to
history of WCHU.....when there is in fact so little of it being
RCA TK10-A black and white television camera.
Projectionist Joel Hartman loading the WCHU film chain with what
appears to be a short length commercial reel of film.
Kurtz editing news film. The developing tanks are on the left.
is the Television 33 (WCHU) News/Production "bus." Charlie
Anderson is shown shooting film to be used on the air. Notice
billboard just above the VW van for the Television 33 new "weathergirl."
was the WCHU news set at the Inman Hotel in downtown Champaign.
The station had only one studio camera.....a 7-8 year old RCA
TK41-A black and white camera.
here at the news set is Charles Anderson with the local news update on
WCHU, with Ted Sodergren on camera.
great picture of the WCHU control room with Gerry Probst.
the monitors labeled with "20" "33" and to the far right "24."
The video monitors included three Admiral table model TV sets
which would have used the "off-air" tuners to monitor the three
stations. The second monitor probably monitored the
before sent to the transmitter, with the one in the middle picking up
the "off air" signal.
The video switcher is directly in
from of Mr. Probst with the Gates audio board model called
"The Yard" sitting on top.
The control room operator had to do both audio and video
switching. Also to the far right is probably the commercial
scripts for live and recorded reads....done by the "booth announcer"
and at the far left could have been he program log....and the list of
phone numbers of other staffers and probably the main control of both
WICS and WICD. This equipment also being full of tubes and
heat producing electronics needed to have additional air
conditioning....notice the wall unit at the upper right hand side of
above is Charles Anderson and "Deke" Kurtz reviewing some news film
through the film chain and watching it on the fourth upper monitor
which is labeled "film chain." This photo also shows the reel
reel tape with the continuity log for commercial copy.
Apparently, much of the "booth announcing" was pre-recorded
reel to reel tape for each days broadcast schedule. There was
another "Magnicord" reel to reel recorder/player which could be
alternated from one to the other as commercials switched.
The rack on the wall was probably reel to reel tapes with
individualized commercial audio on them for playback.
note the larger monitor just to the far right. It appears to
an RCA color TV which was used to monitor the "color" off air signal of
WCHU and it's broadcast of NBC color programming.
station license and various operators licences are displayed just above
the control room door. By the way, it appears the air
conditioners exhaust was blown into the hall way.
station program director and part time weathercaster Bob Lumpp does the
weather at the original weather set at the WCHU studios on the second
floor of the Inman Hotel. The "Window on the Weather" would
include a shot of the current weather conditions in downtown Champaign
as viewed from the window. Carol Fisher was the original
girl" of WCHU.
control room shot of WCHU.
Employee Roster 1962-1964 (as remembered by Ted Sodergren)
station manager: Jim Kelly
sales: Joe Norris
traffic: Shirley Eskew
program director: Bob Lumpp (weather announcer as needed)
weathercaster: Carol Fisher
chief engineer: Harry Eskew
control room engineers: Gerry Probst and Gene Euling
director/photographer: "Deke" Kurtz
news announcer/reporter: Charlie Anderson
announcer/interviewerer/booth announcer: Keith Page
"Uncle Otto" and production: Dave Otto
studio production staff: Ted Sodergren, Joel Hartman
receptionist/traffic assistant: Barbara Bluege
text materials and photos contained in the section above have been used
by permission. They are owned by Ted Sondergren who has
graciously allowed them to be included in this website.
Shows Airing on WCHU and WICD from 1960-1966
||"Ruff and Reddy"
|"The Today Show"
|"The Ford Show"
||"Play Your Hunch"
|"Car 54, Where Are You"
||"The Price is Right"
|"Sing Along With Mitch"
||"Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color"
|"The Joey Bishop Show"
|"Alfred Hitchcock Presents"
|"Truth or Consequences"
|"It Could be You"
|"Man from U.N.C.L.E."
|"Tales of Wells Fargo"
|"The Tall Man"
|"The Richard Boone Show"
|"Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Show"
|"Please Don't Eat the Daisies"
|"I Dream of Jeannie"
|"Saturday Night at the Movies"
|"My Mother the Car"
|"The Space Kidettes"
|"Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In"
|"The Dean Martin Show"
|"Dennis the Menace"
|"You Don't Say"
|"The Sammy Davis Jr. Show"
|"Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer" (annual special)
|"90 Bristol Court: Karen"
|"The Andy Williams Show"
|"The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson"
Conference" was a weekly public affairs program hosted by WICS Anchor
Douglas Kimball in 1960. The studios were located at the
Hotel in downtown Springfield. Click on the photo above for a
(Courtesy of J.R. Evans)
is an ad from
1963 showing the WICS/WCHU/WICD news anchors. Pictured from
left: UNKNOWN, Chet Huntley(NBC), Dale Coleman(WICS-News Director),
David Brinkley(NBC), UNKNOWN, Douglas Kimball(WICS) and Wayne
Cox(WICS). Click on the photo above for a larger picture.
(Courtesy of J.R. Evans)
1962, the kids
panel show hosted by long time central Illinois TV personality Kim
Wilson "Popeye Fun Time" aired on both WICS and WCHU. Kim
had careers at both WICS and WTVP during the 50's and early
(Courtesy of J.R. Evans)
|The NBC Peacock as seen by those with color TVs on WCHU, Channel 33
|The NBC Peacock as seen by those with color TVs on WICD, Channel 24
(above left): The opening
page of local listings from TV Guide® when the listings for Channel 24,
WICD were added to the lineup. Even though Channel 24 had been
broadcasting since 1953, the previous owners (Northwest Publishing-see
page 1 of the History of WICD) chose not to have the station included.
(above right column):
About a year after WCHU went on the air, the station was finally
equiped to pass network the network color signal of NBC.
Unfortunately the transmitter of Channel 24, WICD was not compatible
with the required installation of the color generator.
"Uncle Otto's General Store"
was the WCHU/WICD local
children's show which ran on weekday afternoons on Channels 33 and
24. Dave Otto was the star with the puppets of "Honk" and
"Toot." The puppeteer was none other than WICD's Keith Page
his early days of broadcasting. Keith also supplied the
the puppets. The show also included a studio audience of
kids and a mixing of Warner Brothers cartoons. Shows like
one, helped establish the habits of the younger audience to watch local
Here's Keith Page from the early 1960's with what was probably a posed
picture for a live TV commerical for TEEM soda. TEEM was a
knock-off from Pepsi-Cola. It was introduced in 1962.
Above are two scenes from "Uncle
Otto's Talking Pictures" was
broadcast on Sunday night at 10:30pm. Even though Uncle Otto was
host of "Uncle Otto's General Store" which was for the kids, this
WCHU/WICD feature included the Sunday night late movie hosted by "Uncle
This is Dave Otto with his puppet friends "Honk and Toot" who were
voice and manipulated by Kieth Page, who would be a part of the
Champaign television station through 2006 when he passed away.
|Popular Syndicated Programs Airing on WCHU and WICD from 1960-1966
|"The Three Stooges"
|"I Dream of Jeannie"
|"The Cisco Kid"
|"The Adventures of Superman"
|"The Mike Douglas Show"
Here's Douglas Kimball in a closeup from the ad to the right.
was actually in Springfield, but it appears that at least part of the
newscast originated in Champaign with local news and weather
(from the Urbana Courier)
Here's the ad from a 1964 Urbana Courier newspaper which invited
viewers in on "The Big Switch." WICS anchor Douglas Kimball
the main anchor pictured in front of a WCHU microphone flag.
(from the Urbana Courier)
O'Clock report as broadcast on
WICS/WCHU/WICD and W-75-AD in the mid 1960's.
Nick Alexander, Dale Coleman and Wayne Cox anchored the Springfield
newscasts while Alan Crane and Joe Thompson did the Champaign-Danville
newscasts. Dale Coleman along with Al Pigg(see WTVP) and Kim
Wilson had the distinction of spreading their careers at both WICS and
WTVP during the 1950's and 60's.
(ad from TV Guide®
and the Doug Quick Collection)
origination was split between WICS and WCHU/WICD and featured
such as Douglas Kimball and the "Standard Oil News at 6PM and 10PM"
WICS-TV. The need for local origination became obvious and
construction of studios were completed within the small confines of the
Inman Hotel in downtown Champaign.
By localizing the
could better attract a Champaign-Urbana audience to add to the audience
of WICS in Springfield and help to the total audience of the NBC
News at WCHU/WICD was
provided by the
Report which originated in both Danville and Champaign.
in Danville and Eaton was in Champaign. It was a local
NBC's Huntley/Brinkley Report.
shows of the era included "Clicka T. Clack and his Friends" and "The
Funny Company" on WICS
included a panel of kids from the Springfield area and a staple of
Brothers cartoons. At WICD it was Uncle Otto's General Store
Page, long time weather caster, began at WCHU as a puppeteer on Uncle
General Store and alter egos of "Honk and Toot." Keith was
booth announcer at the station and pre-recorded all of the commercial
breaks, and became a weathercaster when weather "girl" Carol Fisher
the station in 1964.
In January of
1965 Plains Television Corporation filed with FCC for a license to
broadcast on Channel 21. That Channel 21
have replaced those on Champaign's Channel 33 and Danville's Channel
24. It would also eliminate the need for the translator at
Channel 75 in Mattoon which re-broadcast WICS. This new
would be able to broadcast a signal with a 50 mile radius from a tower
midway between Ogden and Fithian, 2 1/2 miles south of Interstate
74. The station would have a maximum height of 1,349 feet
power of 225 kilo-watts. Plus, the new station would be able
broadcast NBC shows in full color to the entire area!
a holdup, for an unknown reason, the filing finally was sent to the FCC
for consideration during March of 1965. A press release at
time said that if the FCC approved the license within 60 days, a new
tower and facility could be operational by the fall of 1966.
in June of 1966 the announcement was made that what was originally
Channel 21, would now be Channel 15, a joint operation of stations WCHU
and WICD and would be on the air by late 1966 or early 1967.
was promised that viewers would have better reception from the new
tower which would be the tallest structure in Illinois and
Indiana. The tower site would be near Homer, 17
of Champaign(actually Urbana), and would be 1, 345 feet tall and the
station would broadcast a power of 55 kilo-watts(a little short of the
original plan). Sometime along with the filing, a change was
to the specs to include a high gain antenna with a corresponding
increase in power to 1 1/4 million watts. WCHU General
James T. Kelly once again promised a stronger signal to the rural areas
and many towns including Rantoul, Paris, Paxton, Charleston and
Why was the broadcast channel 21 changed to channel
15? It's unknown, but it was a wise decision
Some of the
factors could have been, since WCHU would received an off air signal of
WICS at Channel 20, some co-channel interference would have been
experienced. Another reason could have been the confusion of
viewers between the
transmitter points who would have had a difficult time tuning each
station in with the slide-rule UHF tuners prevalent on sets of the
era. The original allocation of channel 15 was set in
WBLN which operated at channel 15 during several years in the 1950's
was no longer on the air, and the license appeared to have been
surrendered to the FCC. No other filing for the license was
made. The change to request channel 15 would eliminate much
the interference of the nearby stations, plus give the new station a
much better lower dial position. From a marketing standpoint
use of 15 and 20 made perfect sense while the call letters were similar
for WIC....S for Springfield and D for Danville, which was the county
seat for Vermilion County which hosted the transmitter and broadcast
Since the FCC allocation table spaced UHF stations in the same metro
areas at 6 channels apart, it seemed like more than a coincidence that
15 was 6 away from 21. In fact the allocation table for
Champaign-Urbana had 21, 27, 34, 40, 46, 52, 58 as possible channels
for full power stations. It many have been that the
for channel 15 was originally assigned to Champaign-Urbana.
order to squeeze more channels in, it became obvious that not all
allocations would be filled by most communities. For example,
Lafayette, Indiana had the allocation channel numbers 18, 24, 30, 36,
42, 48 and 54. WFAM, which is now WLFI originally broadcast
channel 54 during it's early days, later going to the more preferable
lower dial position of channel 18. Meanwhile, the Lafayette
allocation for channel 24, was moved to nearby Danville, Illinois where
it was used by WDAN-TV and WICD from 1953 to 1967.
More on the operation of the new Channel 15 in Part 3: The WICD-TV
Plains Television Years....
an example of
programming judgement, or "it seemed like a good idea at the
time!" The managment of WICS/WCHU and WICD in an effort to
more prime time commercial time, preempted the new science fiction show
"Star Trek" to show the off network syndicated show
Well, at least "Laramie" was in color!
the low power of both WCHU and WICD, neither station was able to reach
much more than 25 miles from their home cities, leaving much of the
without NBC programming. The Mattoon area was served for a
time in the mid 60's by a satellite translator W-75-AD, which
is assumed that Charleston
was served by WTWO, the
Haute NBC affiliate, which was also a secondary affiliate of ABC.
General Manager of the Plains Television Stations announcing in a TV
Guide ad, that construction was once again underway on the new Channel
15 broadcast tower after an ice storm took the first one down early in
1967. More about that in the next chapter of this site, Part