WICS signed on for the first time on Sept. 30, 1953, broadcasting the World Series between the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Yankees, according to Doug Quick, who has compiled a massive online history of central Illinois broadcasting.
The station’s first local program was a pre-game show featuring the station’s first sportscaster, Bernie Waterman. Regular programming — featuring “Captain Video” and “Dragnet” — began the next day, Monday, Oct. 1.
The station’s original offices and studio were in the Leland Hotel, 523 E. Capitol Ave.
Plains Television Co., WICS’s owner, named commercial TV pioneer Milton Friedland (1920-88) as its first general manager. Friedland had begun his television career with WBKB in Chicago after World War II. Friedland, who also was involved in many community activities, remained with the station until 1986.
WICS was predominantly an NBC affiliate until 2005, when it traded network connections with WAND-TV in Decatur, WICS joining ABC and WAND switching to NBC.
In addition to news, weather and sports, local programming on WICS during its first decade was aimed heavily at children, with such shows as “The Pegwill Circus” (sponsored by a hot dog manufacturer), “Clicka T. Clack” and “Kim’s Kiddie Korner.”
Guy Gannett Communications of Portland, Me., purchased WICS (and its sister by that time, WICD in Champaign) in 1986. Gannett, in turn, sold the stations to Sinclair Communications in 1999.
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