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WICS, virtual channel 20 (UHF digital channel 42), is an ABC-affiliated television station licensed to Springfield, Illinois, United States, and also serving Decatur. The station is owned by the Sinclair Broadcast Group. WICS' studios are located on East Cook Street in Springfield's Eastside, and its transmitter is located in unincorporated Sangamon County, south of Dawson and I-72/US 36.

WICD (channel 15) in Champaign–Urbana operates as a full-time satellite of WICS to serve the eastern portion of the market. WICD broadcasts the same schedule as its parent station but airs separate legal identifications and local commercial inserts. Although WICD maintains its own studios on South Country Fair Drive in downtown Champaign, master control and most internal operations are based at WICS' facilities. Nielsen Media Research treats WICS and WICD as one station in local ratings books, using the identifier name WICS+.

Through joint sales and shared services agreements, Sinclair also operates the area's Fox affiliate, Springfield-licensed WRSP-TV, channel 55 (and its semi-satellite, Urbana-licensed WCCU, channel 27), as well as Decatur-licensed CW outlet WBUI, channel 23 (all are owned by GOCOM Media, LLC). WRSP and WBUI share studios with WICS but WBUI also maintains an advertising sales office on South Main Street/US 51 in downtown Decatur. WCCU's advertising sales operation is based in WICD's studios.

History

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 was 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. With the eventual relaxation of ownership limits, Sinclair soon took the stations off the market and retained them.

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, the 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 were initially operated from separate facilities from WICS/WICD. However, WCCU quickly moved its advertising sales operation from its location on South Neil Street/U.S. 45 in Champaign into WICD's studios. Eventually, WRSP and WBUI also moved from their offices on Old Rochester Road in Springfield and were consolidated into WICS' facility.


TV stations in Illinois
WLS, Chicago

WSIL, Harrisburg
WICS/WICD, Springfield/Champaign
WEEK-DT2, Peoria
WQAD, Moline

TV stations in South Central Illinois (including Champaign–Urbana, Danville, Springfield and Decatur)
WCIA 3 (CBS)
WILL 12 (PBS)
WSEC 14 (PBS)
WICD 15 (ABC)
WUSI 16 (PBS)
WAND 17 (NBC)
WICS 20 (ABC)
WBUI 23 (CW)
WCCU 27 (Fox)
WLCF-LD 45 (CTN)
WBXC-CD 46 (Buzzr)
WCIX 49 (MNTV)
WEIU 51 (PBS)
WRSP 55 (Fox)
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