|Branding||ABC NewsChannel 20
|Slogan||More Local Coverage|
|Channels||Digital: 42 (UHF)
Virtual: 20 (PSIP)
20.2 ZUUS Country
|Affiliations||ABC (since 2005; also secondary from 1953-1958)|
|Owner||Sinclair Broadcast Group
(WICS Licensee, LLC)
|First air date||September 17, 1953|
|Call letters' meaning||We're Illinois' Capitol, Springfield|
|Sister station(s)||WICD, WRSP/WCCU, WBUI, WYZZ-TV, WHOI|
|Former channel number(s)||Analog:
20 (UHF, 1953–2009)
|Transmitter power||950 kW|
|Public license information:||Profile
WICS is the ABC-affiliated television station for Springfield and Decatur, Illinois. It broadcasts a high definition digital signal on UHF channel 42 (or virtual channel 20.1 via PSIP) from a transmitter, in unincorporated Sangamon County, south of Dawson and I-72/U.S. 36. Owned by the Sinclair Broadcast Group, the station operates Fox affiliates WRSP/WCCU and CW affiliate WBUI (both owned by GOCOM Media, LLC) through joint sales and shared services agreements. WICS has studios on East Cook Street in Springfield's Eastside section.
WICS operates WICD in Champaign as a semi-satellite; WICS serves the western portion of the market while WICD serves the eastern portion. WICD simulcasts ABC network and syndicated programming as provided by WICS but airs separate commercials, legal identifications, and weekday newscasts (see below). Although WICD maintains its own studios on South Country Fair Drive in downtown Champaign, master control and some internal operations are based within WICS' facilities. Outside weekday newscasts, commercial insertion on WICD is controlled at the Springfield studios. The two stations are counted as a single unit for ratings and regulatory purposes.
WICS began operations on September 17, 1953 and was owned by Plains Television Partners of Springfield, which was a 50/50 joint venture of Transcontinental Properties and the H & E Balaban Corporation. It carried programming from all four networks of the era (NBC, CBS, ABC, and DuMont). However, it was a primary NBC affiliate. Although the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) had collapsed most of East Central Illinois into one giant television market, WICS took on a secondary CBS affiliation because its primary affiliate, WCIA in Champaign, only provided a marginal signal to Springfield. It also aired whatever ABC programs WTVP in Decatur (now WAND) had to turn down in order to air CBS shows not cleared by WCIA.
By 1958, WICS was an exclusive NBC affiliate. The station originally had facilities at the Leland Hotel on Capitol Street in Downtown Springfield. In 1964, it moved to its current studios on East Cook Street in East Springfield. The FCC considered making East Central Illinois an all-UHF market but dropped these plans under heavy lobbying from WCIA.
However, WICS' signal was not nearly strong enough to reach the eastern portion of the area. At the time, UHF signals were not strong enough to cover large amounts of territory. Accordingly in 1959, Plains Television signed-on WCHU in Champaign as a low-powered satellite of WICS. In 1960, it bought WDAN-TV (another low-powered station in Danville) and changed the calls to WICD. At the same time, WCHU began breaking off from the WICS signal to air some local programming for the eastern side of the market, which was simulcasted on WICD. In 1967, Plains Television merged WCHU and WICD into a new full-power station on UHF channel 15 under the WICD calls, but operating under the WCHU license.
Plains Television sold WICS to Guy Gannett Communications (no relation to the larger Gannett company), in 1986 but held onto WICD until 1994. The two stations operated as a regional network sharing most network and syndicated programming. This arrangement nearly brought down WICD, and for a time, it appeared the station would revert to a full-time satellite of WICS. Guy Gannett finally bought WICD in 1994.
Sinclair purchased most of Guy Gannett's stations, including WICS and WICD, in 1999. The company almost immediately turned around and announced it was selling the two (which count as one for regulatory purposes) plus KGAN in Cedar Rapids, Iowa to Sunrise Television. However, the FCC did not allow Sunrise to buy WICS/WICD due to Sunrise's ownership structure. Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst (HMTF), an investment firm controlled by then-Texas Rangers and Dallas Stars owner Tom Hicks, owned a large block of Sunrise stock. HMTF is majority stockholder of the LIN TV Corporation, then-owner of WAND. The FCC ruled HMTF held enough stock in Sunrise that if it bought WICS/WICD, it would have created a duopoly between two of the four highest-rated stations in the market, which is forbidden by FCC rules. As a result, Sinclair remains the owner of WICS/WICD and KGAN.
In 2005, the two stations swapped affiliations with WAND and became ABC affiliates as part of a larger national deal between LIN and NBC that also involved WDTN in Dayton, Ohio (who swapped affiliations with WICS/WICD's Dayton sister station WKEF the year before). WICS/WICD was to have switched to ABC at the beginning of the 2004–05 television season, but its affiliation agreement with NBC still had one year to go. On November 17, 2010, WICS became available to Dish Network customers in Terre Haute, Indiana as the ABC affiliate since the market lacked an affiliate of its own. WICD's transmitter is near the border between Illinois and Indiana, and WICD was carried on most cable systems on the Illinois side of the Terre Haute market. However, WICS was the only station uplinked by satellite providers due to contractual obligations, since it was considered the main station. WICS disappeared from the Terre Haute local feed in the fall of 2011 after that city's Fox affiliate, WFXW, rejoined ABC as WAWV-TV.
On December 31, 2012, Sinclair Broadcast Group closed on the purchase of the non-license assets of GOCOM's three television stations, WRSP/WCCU and sister station WBUI for approximately $25.6 million. Sinclair is providing sales and other non-programming services to the stations pursuant to shared services and joint sales agreements. Both WRSP/WCCU and WBUI will nominally continue to operate from separate facilities from WICS/WICD for the foreseeable future. However, WCCU eventually moved its advertising sales operation from offices on South Neil Street/U.S. 45 in Champaign to WICD's studios.
The station's digital channel is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|20.1||720p||16:9||WICS-DT||Main WICS programming / ABC|
WICS shut down its analog signal, over UHF channel 20, on February 17, 2009, the original date in which full-power television stations in the United States were to transition from analog to digital broadcasts under federal mandate (which was later pushed back to June 12, 2009). The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 42. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former UHF analog channel 20.
Even though WICS and WICD technically operate separate news departments, there is a considerable amount of resource sharing between the two outlets, such as with video footage and personnel. This can particularly be the case when covering Decatur (which is located between Champaign and Springfield). WICS has a slightly larger news department than WICD because it has more personalities. WICS provides coverage of the Illinois State Capitol for WICD, while the two stations share coverage of sporting events from the University of Illinois Fighting Illini.
Lately, WICS/WICD have been very competitive in the local news race after years of being a distant second behind longtime dominant WCIA. Beginning with the November 2006 Nielsen ratings period, the two actually briefly led with viewership in East-Central Illinois. This is because the station's ratings are combined by Nielsen Media Research and considers WICS and WICD to be a single station for counting purposes. The latter is identified as "WICS+" in ratings books and has continued battling WCIA for the top spot splitting the position over various time slots. Basically, WICD's existence benefits WICS even though the semi-satellite is technically combined with the primary station.
Along with several other Sinclair properties, WICS/WICD did not participate in the wider implementation of the company's now-defunct, controversial News Central format for their newscasts. This operations saw local news operations reduced at some stations and combined with national news coverage, weather forecasting, and sports headlines based out of Sinclair's headquarters in Hunt Valley, Maryland. WICS/WICD, however, did air "The Point" (a one-minute conservative political commentary) that was also controversial and a requirement of all Sinclair-owned stations with newscasts until the series was discontinued in December 2006.
On September 11, 2006, a news share agreement was established with WRSP/WCCU (then separately controlled). As a result, a nightly prime time newscast began airing on those two stations that is jointly produced by WICS/WICD. Known as NewsChannel at 9 on Fox Illinois, it airs for a half-hour from a modified set at WICS's Springfield studios featuring unique duratrans indicating the Fox-branded show. From the start, NewsChannel at 9 competed with a newscast already established in the time slot on then-UPN affiliate WCFN (produced by WCIA). Unlike the WRSP/WCCU show, WCFN's broadcast originated from WCIA's Champaign facilities but was targeted specifically at a Springfield audience. Although the WRSP/WCCU newscast features market wide coverage, including contributions from WICD reporters, there is a separate weather forecast segment for WRSP and WCCU that is seen weeknights. WCFN's prime time broadcast would be eventually canceled by WCIA on September 28, 2009. On October 7, 2013, the weekday edition of NewsChannel at 9 was expanded to an hour.
The effort on WRSP/WCCU was further expanded on January 20, 2014 when WICS began producing a two-hour weekday morning show for the Fox affiliates. Known as Good Day Illinois, the program can be seen from 7 until 9 and offers a local alternative to the national morning programs seen on the big three networks. It also competes with another two-hour local newscast seen at same time on MyNetworkTV affiliate WCIX (produced by WCIA).
On June 26, 2010, rival WAND became the first television station in East-Central Illinois to upgrade news production to high definition level. It would not be until December 2012 that local newscasts seen on WICS would be upgraded to HD. Included with the change was a new set at the Sprigfield studios and updated Sinclair corporate graphics. WICD's separate weekday newscasts at its Champaign headquarters were not included in the upgrade because that set lacks high definition cameras.
On March 26, 2011, WICD ceased airing its own newscasts on weekends opting to simulcast those from WICS. These broadcasts are known as ABC NewsChannel and feature a common graphics package seen on WICS and WICD. Multimedia journalists based at WICD's Champaign studios still provide coverage of the eastern areas of the market. The change represented the second attempt at a joint market-wide product by WICS/WICD. At one point in time, there had been a newscast weeknights at 5 that was simulcasted on both outlets originating from Springfield. On weekend evenings, the two stations also co-produce and simulcast a lifestyle/entertainment show called Illinois Central. Airing in a magazine-type format, the thirty minute program presents more in-depth feature stories from the entire area.
Notable current on-air staff
- Armstrong Williams - The Right Side host
Notable former on-air staff
- RabbitEars TV Query for WICS
- "DTV Tentative Channel Designations for the First and the Second Rounds" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-03-24.
- per WICD anchor Doug Quick's website
- WICS "ABC NewsChannel 20"
- WICD "ABC NewsChannel 15"
- WRSP/WCCU "Fox 55/27 Illinois"
- WBUI "CW 23"
- Query the FCC's TV station database for WICS