|Branding||WSIL-TV 3; News 3 WSIL|
First air date
|December 6, 1953|
Former channel number(s)
Call sign meaning
|HAAT||291 m (955 ft)|
|Translator(s)||K10KM-D 10 Cape Girardeau, MO|
Public license information
|Branding||KPOB-TV 15; News 3|
First air date
|September 1, 1961|
Former channel number(s)
Call sign meaning
|HAAT||184 m (604 ft)|
Public license information
WSIL-TV (channel 3) is a television station licensed to Harrisburg, Illinois, United States, serving as the ABC affiliate for Southern Illinois, Southeast Missouri, the Purchase area of Western Kentucky, and Northwest Tennessee. Owned by Allen Media Broadcasting, the station maintains studios on Country Aire Drive (IL 13) in Carterville and a transmitter near Creal Springs, Illinois. It is rebroadcast on KPOB-TV (channel 15) in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, covering areas of southeastern Missouri and northeastern Arkansas, and translator K10KM-D (channel 10), in Cape Girardeau, Missouri.
WSIL-TV was the first television station in southern Illinois, debuting on ultra high frequency (UHF) channel 22 on December 6, 1953. It soon affiliated with ABC and NBC before moving to channel 3 in 1959 and becoming a sole ABC affiliate. KPOB-TV went on the air in 1961; only briefly in its history has it ever aired separate programming for the Poplar Bluff area. The station, which focuses its news coverage on Southern Illinois, has traditionally fallen behind its two rivals in the market in news ratings and resources, though less so than in decades past. After having two ownership groups almost all of its first 65 years on air, it was sold first to Quincy Media in 2018 and to Allen in 2021.
When the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) lifted its four-year freeze on new television station allocations in 1952, channel 22 in the then-new ultra high frequency (UHF) band was assigned to Harrisburg. The Turner-Farrar Association, whose partners owned movie theaters in Southern Illinois, applied for the channel on June 23, 1952, and received a construction permit on March 11, 1953.
With the permit in hand, Turner-Farrar began construction on the station's studio facility in what was known as the Lockwood building on Poplar Street in Harrisburg, absorbing a former billiards hall in the process. A 550-foot (170 m) tower was erected on the site for the transmission facility. The station began broadcasting a test pattern on December 3, 1953. Two days later, an open house was held at the studios, and regular programming from Southern Illinois's first TV station began on December 6.
The station had no network affiliation in its early months, but it added ABC in March 1954, followed by NBC in December 1955.
Soon after starting WSIL-TV on channel 22, Turner-Farrar petitioned for the FCC to assign a channel in the more widely available VHF band. In its first attempt, denied in July 1956, the company attempted to have channel 13 relocated to Harrisburg from Bowling Green, Kentucky. The next month, Turner-Farrar applied to have channel 22 changed to channel 3. This proposal, along with the addition of educational channel 8 to Carbondale, was approved by the FCC in March 1958; in doing so, the commission rejected a competing proposal to allocate channel 3 to Carbondale. Construction of the channel 3 facility was completed in early March 1959, and on March 4, WSIL-TV permanently moved to channel 3 from Creal Springs, greatly increasing its coverage area; the tower at Harrisburg remained in place and was utilized for communications purposes. Coinciding with the move to VHF, WSIL-TV became ABC's 87th primary affiliate.
In May 1960, the Turner–Farrar Association applied to the FCC to build UHF channel 15 in Poplar Bluff to serve southeast Missouri. The transmitter was completed in August 1961 and began broadcasting programs on September 1 of that year. KPOB-TV was off the air on several occasions in its first 15 years: for over a month in June and July 1962 (due to lack of network signal), from September 1966 to October 1967, and for more than a month in 1974 for construction. The last of these outages, from April 1976 to January 1977, was for financial reasons. During this time, WSIL attempted to sell KPOB-TV to the Hernreich Group, which would have switched it to rebroadcasting KAIT in Jonesboro, Arkansas, but negotiations proved unfruitful. In the early 1980s, KPOB briefly broadcast some local programming of its own.
Turner-Farrar continued in the television business until 1980, when it announced it would sell WSIL-TV and KPOB in what amounted to a partial trade. As part of the transaction, O. L. Turner acquired radio stations WEBQ and WEBQ-FM in Harrisburg from Macauley "Mackie" Nicholes, who became one of several stockholders in the new ownership of the television stations. FCC approval was granted in May 1981, allowing the $3 million TV station transaction and $700,000 radio station sale to go forward. Nicholes, along with cable television system operator John Kirby, faced a monumental task in trying to improve WSIL-TV. Under Turner-Farrar, its news staff numbered five people; its principal competitors in the region, WPSD-TV in Paducah and KFVS-TV in Cape Girardeau, each had more than 20 people in their news departments. WSIL news attracted just five percent of the audience compared to 38 and 42 percent for the other stations, respectively. Further, restrictions on the channel 3 allotment meant that unlike WPSD or KFVS, a 2,000-foot (610 m) tower was not possible for WSIL. A feature in The Southern Illinoisan newspaper characterized the station's reputation for "illustrat[ing] a flood by showing its audience a hand-drawn picture of a lake in the corner of the screen, rather than sending a film crew to the scene". In 1981, for the first fall season under the new owners, the station revamped its evening lineup; it ceased the practice of tape-delaying World News Tonight. The station moved its cartoon program, Uncle Briggs and the Funny Company, from early evenings to early mornings; the show, which traced its origins back to the station's first day on air in 1953 as a hosted Western movie with a local "Cactus Pete", was canceled in April 1982 as part of an effort to professionalize the station. Uncle Briggs, real name Briggs Gordon, continued with WEBQ radio until his death in 1988.
Nicholes sold his stake in WSIL-TV to Kirby in December 1982. Months later, Kirby agreed to sell the station to Mel Wheeler, Inc., a Texas-based radio station owner, for $6.6 million. The transmitter facility was revamped in 1984, including a 210-foot (64 m) height extension to the tower. The station also relocated from its increasingly outmoded and cramped Harrisburg studio. In 1983, Wheeler had purchased a tract of land in Crainville, Illinois, a site which would be more centrally located to Marion and Carbondale for news coverage and advertising sales; however, serious consideration to leaving Harrisburg for Crainville recurred in 1987. Construction began on the new facility in September 1988.
Under Mel Wheeler, Inc., WSIL-TV became a family affair. Steve Wheeler, Mel's son, became the operations manager and general manager by 1986; his wife, Bonnie, served as the news director. Under Wheeler, WSIL-TV continued to focus its news department exclusively on Southern Illinois news; ratings improved but remained far behind the competition. Despite equipment improvements—such as the launch of a digital signal in 2002, a refresh of the news set and imaging in 2004, and the introduction of high-definition local news in 2010—as well as the launch of a morning newscast in 2004, WSIL continued to remain off the pace of KFVS and WPSD; it was third in revenue (using 2013) data) and ratings (as of 2014).
The station was one of 57 ABC affiliates that refused to air NYPD Blue during its first season in 1993–1994; the show aired in the market on Fox affiliate KBSI. Steve Wheeler appeared on Good Morning America to explain his decision; he announced during the interview that if the program was successful, WSIL would reconsider. Citing his feeling that the show's content had been toned down since its pilot episode, Wheeler approved the program for air on WSIL-TV beginning in September 1994.
On October 31, 2018, Quincy Media announced that it would acquire WSIL-TV and KPOB-TV for $24.5 million. The sale was approved by the FCC on December 20 and completed on January 15, 2019.
Two years later, on February 1, 2021, Gray Television announced the purchase of Quincy Media for $925 million. As Gray already owned KFVS-TV, also within the top four stations in ratings in the Paducah–Cape Girardeau–Harrisburg market, it opted to keep that station and sell WSIL–KPOB in order to satisfy FCC requirements. On April 29, 2021, it was announced that Allen Media Broadcasting would acquire WSIL, KPOB, and the remaining Quincy stations not being acquired by Gray Television for $380 million. The sale was completed on August 2.
The stations' signals are multiplexed:
|3.1||15.1||720p||16:9||WSILABC||KPOB-TV||Main programming / ABC|
|3.2||15.2||480i||HandI||Heroes & Icons|
|3.3||15.3||Crime||True Crime Network|
Both stations shut down their analog signals on June 12, 2009, the official date on which full-power television stations in the United States transitioned from analog to digital broadcasts under federal mandate. The station's digital channel allocations post-transition are as follows:
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