|WMEC: Macomb, Illinois
WQEC: Quincy, Illinois
WSEC: Jacksonville, Illinois
|Slogan||Watch and learn.|
WMEC: 21 (UHF)
WQEC: 34 (UHF)
WSEC: 15 (UHF)
WMEC: 22 (PSIP)
WQEC: 27 (PSIP)
WSEC: 14 (PSIP)
|Owner||West Central Illinois Educational Telecommunications Corporation|
|First air date||WMEC: October 1, 1984
WQEC: March 1985
WSEC: August 1984
|Call letters' meaning||Macomb / Quincy / Springfield
|Former channel number(s)||Analog:
|Transmitter power||WMEC: 75 kW
WQEC: 58.6 kW
WSEC: 75 kW
|Height||WMEC: 131 m
WQEC: 153 m
WSEC: 295 m
|Facility ID||WMEC: 70537
Network Knowledge is a consortium of three Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) stations in west central Illinois. It is operated by the West Central Illinois Educational Telecommunications Corporation. The corporation previously used the brand name Convocom from 1978 until October 13, 2004.
Early public television in region
After World War II, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign hosted the National Association of Educational Broadcasters for the establishment of broadcast allocations (AM/FM radio and TV channels) for non-commercial education programming. The outcomes from these meetings established the foundation for National Public Radio and the Public Broadcasting System.
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign established WILL-TV, Channel 12 which began operations on August 1, 1955 as an affiliate of the NET Network. On October 5, 1970, WILL-TV became a charter member station of the PBS-TV Network.
Iowa was a pioneer in early educational television broadcasting.
In 1933, Dr. E.B. Kurtz, electrical engineering professor at the University of Iowa established an experimental TV station W9XK, later W9XUI, providing twice a week video programming in cooperation with the university's AM radio station WSUI which provided the audio channel. This historical early television station and its educational broadcasts ceased with onset of World War II. The concept of pure educational television which Dr. E.B. Kurtz and his Iowa colleagues pioneered was buried by the commercial television system which dominated development of the electronic media in the United States after World War II.
Thirty years later, Iowa Public Television was established and began broadcast operations on February 8, 1970 by renaming the earlier WSUI-TV as KIIN, Channel 12 at West Branch, Iowa to serve the eastern Iowa and Quad Cities markets (Davenport and Bettendorf in Iowa; Rock Island and Moline in Illinois). Iowa Public Television became a charter member of PBS that same year. KIIN translators were placed in Fort Madison and Keokuk, Iowa in late 1970s to provide coverage in the southeastern corner of Iowa.
That same year, 1969, Bradley University and Peoria supporters led by Phil Weinberg, academic dean at Bradley University, began discussions for establishing an educational TV station, WTVP to serve the needs of the Peoria, Bloomington and Galesburg markets.
On November 10, 1969 Dr. Weinberg viewed the first television broadcast of Sesame Street, produced by the Children's Television Workshop. This program convinced him that the people (and children) in the Peoria community and region should have quality educational TV programming. Weinberg arranged for the program to play on the Peoria CBS affiliate WMBD-TV Channel 31, for six months, before it moved to Peoria's new public television station, WTVP in June 1971. Broadcast operation studios and offices were at Jobst Hall on Bradley University's campus.
Commercial broadcast television networks (CBS, NBC, ABC) and their local affiliates in the west-central Illinois region provided some educational programming for children in the 1950s and 1960s, but this program content disappeared by 1970.
Establishing an educational consortium
In 1970, the west-central region of Illinois was one of the few areas in the United States without a PBS station. Parts of this region were served from PBS stations: WILL-TV in Urbana; WTVP in Peoria; and KIIN in West Branch, Iowa. Cable television networks in north-central Illinois and Macomb carried Iowa Public Television or WTVP PBS programming to their residents in 1971. Springfield cable television carried WILL-TV which was the PBS station for Springfield, but Jacksonville and Pittsfield had no OTA coverage.
A number of meetings were held with civic organizations, businesses, elected public representatives, private and public educational institutions from 1970 to 1976. The outcome of these discussions was the establishment of The West Central Illinois Educational Telecommunications Corporation incorporated in the State of Illinois on February 9, 1976. The corporation was founded by these Illinois educational institutions serving the region: Bradley University in Peoria, Western Illinois University in Macomb, Blackhawk Community College in Moline, and Sangamon State University in Springfield. Its mission was "to establish an educational television network, provide educational content, create local and public affairs programming to serve the residents and businesses of west-central Illinois". Bylaws for the corporation were approved on January 13, 1984.
The brand name Convocom was adopted in 1978 for the corporation and its offices were established at 1501 W. Bradley Avenue in Peoria. George Hall was appointed as first president that same year. He had previously served as general manager for North Carolina State University's educational television station.
Initial engineering design and FCC application filings were performed in 1977 and 1978 by Gary Breed and Don Markley of D.L. Markley and Associates, in Peoria, a well known broadcast engineering consulting firm. Breed was a faculty member of Bradley University's Engineering department and Markley, president and owner of the firm, grew up in Ipava, Illinois.
The original television network design for Convocom would encompass 5 broadcast transmitters at: Quad Cities, Peoria, Macomb, Quincy and Springfield/Jacksonville. The master control would be located at Convocom headquarters in Peoria (at or near WTVP, Bradley University) with 3 microwave interconnections (links). A northern link to WQPT in Quad Cities; a western link to WIUM-TV in Macomb and WQEC in Quincy; and a southern link from Peoria to WJPT in Springfield/Jacksonville region.
The D. L. Markley design was a balance of engineering, economics, and the service region of the education institution members in the largely rural west-central Illinois region. Larger urban areas in the region were considered crucial for ongoing community support and sufficient financial support (grants, fund raising) to cover operational costs of the non-commercial educational network.
West Central Illinois Educational TV Network (Convocom) as presented to regional representatives, educational institutions, major businesses, civic and community organizations in 1977 and 1978:
|Station||City of license||NTSC Channels
TV / RF
|First air date||Call letters'
|ERP||HAAT||Facility ID||Convocom educational member||Transmitter Site Coordinates|
|June 27, 1971||Tele
|190 kW||216 m||28311||Bradley University|
|November 2, 1983||Quad Cities
|80 kW||269 m||5468||Black Hawk College|
|490 m||Sangamon State University|
|October 1, 1984||Western
|75 kW||148 m||Western Illinois University|
|March 9, 1985||Quincy
|58.6 kW||153 m|
- 1. WJPT planned to use the 1,610 foot (491 m) WJJY-TV tower at Bluffs, IL. That tower collapsed on March 26, 1978 (Easter Sunday) in an ice storm. A new 800 foot (243 m) tower site west of Waverly was selected and began broadcasting August 11, 1984.
- 2. WQEC was added since the new WJPT tower at Waverly would not provide coverage to the Quincy/Hannibal market.
WJPT was the first new Convocom station planned for broadcasting by 1979 as Jacksonville's PBS member station, using a 1,610 foot tower near Bluffs, Illinois of the former ABC affiliate WJJY-TV. However, the tower collapsed in a massive ice storm on Easter Sunday 1978. Constructing a replacement 1,000 foot tower at the Bluffs site by April 1979 would require $ 1 million, that Convocom did not have and changed the anticipated regional coverage from that location. A survey for prospective tower sites for WJPT in the Jacksonville/Springfield market and WQEC in the Quincy/Hannibal market began in the summer of 1978.
Western Illinois University had been surveying sites, south of Macomb, since 1975 for relocation of their FM station, WIUM to replace the 250 foot radio tower located on the university's campus. WIU selected a tower site in 1977 that was bequeathed to the university by Jack Horn, regional Coca-Cola bottler. WIU and Convocom agreed to co-locate WIUM-TV on this same tower. Construction of a new 500 foot (152 m) tower was completed in 1980 and WIUM FM transmitters were relocated to the site in 1981. The construction of two microwave relay towers between Peoria and Quincy at Cuba, Illinois and Carthage, Illinois was completed in 1983 for PBS program feeds, local program feeds, master control and TV studios at WIU in Macomb and WGEM in Quincy.
By 1983, a site west of Waverly was selected for construction of an 800-foot (244 m) tower. However, the FCC only licensed WJPT for 34 kilowatts of broadcast power at that specific location. As a result of the tower height and broadcast power, the station was a fringe (grade B) signal in Springfield. A site east of Quincy owned by Blackhawk of Quincy, Inc. was selected for a new 500-foot (152 m) tower to provide expanded coverage with addition of WQEC for Quincy/Hannibal, north-eastern Missouri and southeastern Iowa markets. Convocom had to raise $5.5 million to complete construction of these planned and unplanned replacement facilities.
George Hall resigned as President of Convocom in 1982 to serve as Virginia's Director of Telecommunications under Gov. Charles Robb. The consortium appointed Dr. Jerold Gruebel as the Executive Director of Convocom in April 1983. Dr. Grubel had previously served as the Assistant Director of IHETS (Indiana Higher Education Telecommunications System), a statewide network of video, voice and data networks connecting all 77 of Indiana's colleges and universities, with headquarters in Indianapolis, Indiana.
WQPT in Moline signed on November 2, 1983 serving the Quad Cities metropolitan area, east-central Iowa, and north-western Illinois through a translator (channel 48) in Sterling, Illinois. WQPT, owned and operated by Black Hawk College, elected to develop its own brand identity for the Quad Cities market and never joined the Convocom microwave network and control facilities in Peoria, as originally envisioned in the 1970s design.
WJPT in Waverly signed on August 11, 1984, serving the Jacksonville/Springfield market and south-central Illinois. Eight weeks later, on October 1, 1984, WIUM-TV in Macomb signed on as the primary station serving Macomb and west-central Illinois. This was followed five months later, on March 9, 1985, WQEC in Quincy signed on serving Hannibal/Quincy, western Illinois, north-eastern Missouri and south-eastern Iowa.
WTVP in Peoria, owned by the Illinois Valley Public Telecommunications Corporation, elected to keep its brand identity, ownership structure and broadcast operations in Peoria. Like WQPT, the station never joined the 3 newly built Convocom broadcast facilities in Macomb, Quincy and Waverly (Springfield/Jacksonville).
Smaller Network and Mission Change
By the late 1980s, Convocom's service region was smaller than the original 1970s D.L. Marley & Associates design. Over the next ten years, regional, political and consortium membership change lead to revisions in financial support, and a different mission statement. The new mission statement: "To collaborate with people and enterprises in the communities we serve to bring quality programs, learning opportunities and economic development to our region."
In 1989, it was argued that access to the Illinois Board of Higher Education and state representatives at the IL state capital would further the revised mission of Convocom if the administrative offices were relocated from Peoria to Springfield. The FCC call signs for the three Convocom broadcast facilities, for marketing and brand consistency, were also changed in 1989: WIUM-TV became WMEC, WJPT became WSEC, and WQEC remained unchanged.
On July 1, 1995 Governor Jim Edgar signed a bill which realigned the public higher educational structure in Illinois.
The Board of Regents and Board of Governors were abolished. Sangamon State University was merged with the University of Illinois system, making it the University of Illinois at Springfield. Western Illinois University was expanded to a dual campus, single university structure with the creation of a new Western Illinois University-Quad Cities campus. John Deere Corporation, Moline Foundation, IBM Corporation, and the Rock Island County Board provided land grants, facilities support, and resources for this new Riverfront campus in Moline, IL. Before 1995, the Quad Cities was the largest metropolitan region in the US, without a public four-year university.
In 1997, 30 acres of land southeast of Colchester, near Fandon was purchased by Network Knowledge for a new 430' (131 m) tower. The WMEC transmitter (Macomb) was moved to this new tower. This relocation ended WIU's co-location support for WMEC at the WIUM-FM tower location (1983-1997) on WIU's Horn Campus, south of Macomb.
In 1998, in order to address the fringe signal in Springfield from WSEC at Waverly, a 1,400 watt translator was built in the city originally broadcasting on channel 65 as W65BV. This translator was moved to VHF channel 8 in 2001 and became W08DP. The Springfield television market is part of the Champaign-Springield-Decatur market, assigned by Nielsen Designated Market Area (DMA) and the FCC Television Market Area (TMA) in the 1950s. The national PBS network recognizes WMEC in Macomb as the primary station for the Springfield translator, for this reason. The corporation's headquarters, now located in Chatham, southwest of Springfield, has no bearing on the Nielsen DMA or FCC TMA assignments.
On July 21, 2000 Convocom filed with the FCC a request for a Waiver of Section 73.1125. This waiver request was for the relocation of the master control and technical/engineering facilities from Peoria, IL to Chatham, IL (SW of Springfield). This eventual approval by FCC effectively ended the original 1970s design, and would have financial consequences for the next decade.
Digital Television Conversion
In 1998, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) mandated that broadcast stations migrate from analog (NTSC) to digital (ATSC) television transmission in United States. Specifically, an unfunded federal mandate for US television stations. See Digital television transition. Since 1993, auctions of former television spectrum to the wireless (cellular) telephone and broadband service companies by the FCC generated $52 billion. That revenue was not used to mitigate the digital transition costs for the non-commercial, educational television stations.
For comparison, Iowa Public Television, which operates a state-wide television and telecommunications network with 9 high-power digital transmitters and 8 translators spent $47,000,000 to complete the digital television conversion. That capital expenditure was financially supported by the State of Iowa, the U.S. Department of Commerce and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. More than 1,000,000 viewers watch IPTV each week. Contributing membership to the IPTV Foundation (Friends of Iowa Public TV) consists of approximately 55,000 households.
This required Network Knowledge to review its engineering design, equipment, and operations in order to continue broadcasting to the West-Central Illinois service region, after the digital television transition.
In March 2002, Convocom's technical support, engineering office and network master control were moved from Peoria to Chatham with the completion of a new digital master control facility and interconnection system. The WSEC transmitter site was moved from Waverly to a new 976' (295 m) tower in Franklin.
A new interconnection system composed of digital microwave (90 Mbs) and fiber-optic cabling was designed and implemented with the relocation of master control. It extends from Chatham through Franklin (WSEC's transmitter site) to Golden where it splits and sends a fiber signal to Quincy for WQEC and a microwave signal to Macomb for WMEC. There are also linkages to television studios in Quincy at WGEM (NBC affiliate) and in Macomb at Western Illinois University.
In 2004, after completion of system changes and migration to digital broadcasting, the corporation adopted the brand name Network Knowledge and retired the Convocom brand name after 27 years of use.
The network's geographic service region is now defined by the 3 broadcast facilities at Franklin (Springfield/Jacksonville), Macomb, and Quincy.
The smaller geographical service region of 3 broadcast facilities presented financial challenges, as predicted in 1970s, for all participants.
In May 2001, the State of Illinois granted Network Knowledge stations almost $1 million for the digital conversion. Despite the early success, Dr. Jerold Gruebel, president and CEO of Network Knowledge said, "the organization first ran into financial trouble in 2002, due to unfunded federal mandates to convert to digital television". Network Knowledge raised more than $15 million to fund the conversion, but was forced to borrow nearly $5 million to pay the rest of the bill.
In January 2008, WTVP in Peoria faced financial difficulties after their digital television upgrade and studio relocation from Bradley University, an original member of the Convocom consortium, to a new Peoria Riverfront studio and offices. A special campaign, Save Our Station, generated thousands of special contributions and led to an agreement with the bank.
In July 2008, WQPT, owned by Black Hawk College, an original member of the Convocom consortium, lost financial support when the station was removed from the college's FY2009 fiscal budget.
In May 2010, WQPT was sold to Western Illinois University-Quad Cities, with the primary objective to return WQPT to its original mission of creating more local and public affairs programming. The station moved from its longtime home on Black Hawk's campus to new studio completed on WIU-QC's Riverfront Campus in 2012. WQPT-TV was added to the Comcast - Macomb cable television system after relocation of WQPT transmitter to Orion, IL and ownership change to WIU-QC. The Macomb cable television system has carried KIIN, Iowa Public TV since late 1960s.
The smaller, three station Network Knowledge network relies heavily on corporate and government grant funding, instead of membership support (only six percent of the viewing audience donates to the three stations). In 2009, Network Knowledge also lost its grant support. The organization received an annual average of $750,000 from three foundations in Quincy and one foundation in Decatur. Due to their own economic shortfalls, Gruebel said, none of these organizations gave grants to the network. In 2009, Network Knowledge applied for assistance from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting's financial distress program. Mark Erstling, senior vice president for CPB System Development and Media Strategy and CPB Chief Operating Officer Vincent Curren traveled to Springfield to begin talks with the organization.
Network Knowledge produces a number of regularly scheduled programs each month, including:
- Cardia (monthly; hosted by Mark McDonald & Dr. Gregory Mishkel; produced by Mark McDonald)
- CapitolView (weekly; hosted by Bernie Schoenburg and John Patterson (rotating); produced by Scott Troehler)
- Illinois Stories (3x/week; produced & hosted by Mark McDonald)
- InLife: Stories from Western Illinois (monthly; hosted by Becky Cramblit; produced by Scott Troehler & Becky Cramblit)
- Lawmakers (monthly; hosted by Mark McDonald; produced by Scott Troehler)
Special programming has included
- Expedition United Kingdom (2005)(hosted by Becky Cramblit, produced by Scott Troehler)
- Expedition Scotland (2006)(hosted by Becky Cramblit, produced by Scott Troehler)
- Expedition United Kingdom (2007)(hosted by Becky Cramblit, produced by Scott Troehler)
- Building Stories (hosted by Dave Leonatti with Anthony Rubano, produced by Scott Troehler)
- Making Conversation; Downtown Springfield Inc. Annual Awards; Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce Annual Gala
Network Knowledge has 3 full-power television stations, each of which provide the same 3 digital subchannels.
|Air date||City of License||ERP
|Facility ID||Antenna coordinates|
|WMEC||WIUM-TV||21 (22)||October 1, 1984||Macomb||75.0||131||70537|
|WQEC||WQEC||34 (27)||March 9, 1985||Quincy||58.6||153||71561|
|WSEC||WJPT||15 (14)||August 11, 1984||Jacksonville||75.0||295||70536|
- ^ WMEC and WSEC were given their current callsigns in 1989.
- ^ The Broadcasting and Cable Yearbook says WQEC signed on March 11, while the Television and Cable Factbook says it signed on March 9.
- ^ As of 16 June 2009[update], the FCC still shows an analog record for WSEC on channel 14 with 34 kW ERP at 271 meters HAAT.
- ^ The Broadcasting and Cable Yearbook says WSEC signed on August 21, while the Television and Cable Factbook says it signed on August 11.
|.1||720p||16:9||PBS and local programming|
|.2||480i||4:3||PBS World (prime time) and other programming|
- "Nielsen Television DMA rankings". Retrieved 30 August 2013.
- Hill, Harold (1954). "The National Association of Educational Broadcasters: a history.". National Association of Educational Broadcasters. Retrieved 18 July 2012.
- "The FCC: Seventy-Six Years of Watching TV". FCC. Summer 2003. Retrieved 14 July 2012.
- Rick Plummer. "A Short History of Television Station W9XK/W9XU". Early Television Museum. Retrieved 14 July 2012.
- "The Untold Story, W9XK - Iowa City". Wartburg College. Retrieved 14 July 2012.
- "Digital TV Market Listing for Ft. Madison, Keokuk translators". Rabbit Ears. Retrieved 23 July 2012.
- "1970s IPTV History". IPTV. Retrieved 22 May 2013.
- "Former Bradley dean Philip Weinberg dies at 86". Peoria Journal Star. 3 February 2012. Retrieved 23 July 2012.
- "FCC 323-E, Ownership Report For Noncommercial Educational Broadcast Station, Facility number 70537". 30 June 2003. Retrieved 17 July 2012.
- "George Hall, advocate for educational TV institutions (Obituary)". Current.org. 15 June 2011. Retrieved 17 July 2012.
- "D.L. Markley & Associates". Retrieved 16 July 2012.
- "Donald L. Markley (Obituary)". Peoria Journal Star. 24 October 2009.
- "George Hoffmann Papers, 1960-1991". University of Illinois at Springfield, Archives/Special Collections. 1960-1991.
- Convocom: Bringing People Together through Telecommunication. CONVOCOM. 1979.
- Hopper, Mitch. "The Rise and Fall of WJJY-TV". Retrieved 18 July 2012.
- "Quincy public television is assigned call letters WQEC". Press-News Journal. Canton, MO. 17 January 1985. Retrieved 29 January 2013.
- Tim Blackmore (19 October 1978). "Convocom educational TV will serve area". Press-News Journal. Canton, MO. Retrieved 18 July 2012.
- "Dr. Gruebel appointment to Convocom". Proceedings of the Board of Regents of the State of Illinois. April 1983.
- "CONVOCOM Granted license by FCC this week". Press-New Journal, Canton, MO. June 27, 1985.
- "Springfield Television". Doug Quick. Retrieved 30 August 2013.
- "Request of Waiver of FCC Section 73.1125". FCC. 21 July 2000. Retrieved 4 September 2013.
- "Under a mountain of debt, WSEC-TV struggles for survival". Illinois Times. 3 June 2009. Retrieved 18 July 2012.
- "Data Innovation Initiative: Spectrum Auctions - Data, Benefits Abound". Federal Communications Commission. 6 August 2010. Retrieved 18 July 2012.
- "Iowa Public Television - Independent Auditor's Report". State of Iowa. 30 June 2011.
- "$1.3 Million in Illinois FIRST Projects for Central Illinois". IGNN. 15 May 2001.
- "Banks agree to lighten WTVP's debt load; $450,000 still needed". The Pantagraph. Bloomington, Illinois. 29 January 2008.
- Bill Mayeroff (2 July 2008). "WQPT to save money by focusing on Q-C produced shows". The Q-C Leader. Retrieved 19 July 2012.
- Burke, David (11 April 2012). "WQPT GM to retire in June". QC Times. Retrieved 23 July 2012.
- "Digital TV Market Listing for WMEC". Rabbit Ears. Retrieved 23 July 2012.
- Convocom: Bringing People Together through Telecommunication, 1979 ; Lee C. Frischknecht Papers, University of Maryland Archives; series 4, box 18, folder 3
- "WSEC to be called Network Knowledge" - from the Herald & Review (Decatur, Illinois)
- Query the FCC's TV station database for WMEC
- Query the FCC's TV station database for WQEC
- Query the FCC's TV station database for WSEC
- BIAfn's Media Web Database -- Information on WMEC-TV
- BIAfn's Media Web Database -- Information on WQEC-TV
- BIAfn's Media Web Database -- Information on WSEC-TV