WCIU-TV and a Half-Century of Historic Broadcasting: Service, Soul Train, Svengoolie and more.

WCIU-TV signed on the air on February 6, 1964 as Chicago’s first UHF station—in fact, our call letters pay tribute to that fact (the “I” standing in place for the numeral “1”). Our story began when the local UHF landscape was largely uncharted territory, and most TV sets weren’t even equipped with the option of watching UHF. Those who did tune in were treated to an eclectic mix of programs—sitcoms like “Our Miss Brooks” and “December Bride,” which are all but forgotten now. In addition, there were dusty old westerns from the ‘30s, bullfights from Mexico (seriously!) and local wrestling matches. Noted entertainer and jazz pianist Two Ton Baker hosted “Corral 26,” during which he showed cowboy flicks and sold Bosco. Disc jockey, self-described “loud mouth” and pitch-master general Marty Faye hosted his eponymous Saturday night live entertainment and interview show until early ‘70s.

Throughout our history, WCIU has “served the underserved” population of Chicago. One of America’s great “melting pot” cities, we spoke directly to its wide variety of heritages, broadcasting programs in Italian, Polish and other languages. Our efforts were pioneering when it came to serving the needs of Chicago’s African-American community with programs like “A Black’s View of the News” (the first program of its kind in the market), and “Red Hot & Blue,” a groundbreaking Friday night urban music program.

Of course, just about everyone has heard of “Soul Train,” the show created by station employee Don Cornelius in 1970. Before it became a national sensation and a bona fide TV institution, the show was a daily afternoon dance party, embraced by the African-American youth who finally had a music show that they could call their own. We’re proud to say that one of TV’s most influential and culturally significant programs got its start right here at WCIU.

As the years progressed, WCIU-TV added more Spanish language programming to our schedule, much of it locally produced. The show “AYUDA” (the Spanish term for “Help”) was a live television forum that helped Chicago’s Spanish-speaking population navigate through everyday, real world concerns: workplace, government programs, social service agencies and more.

Additionally, WCIU-TV became the home of the early Spanish language TV Network, SIN, and as the years progressed, was home to Telemundo and Univision. During daytime hours, WCIU-TV produced "The Stock Market Observer," a daily seven hour live business news program that is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for the show telecast the most hours.

In 1995, WCIU-TV returned to our roots as an independent television station, when the Univision Network purchased a station in the Chicago market. At that point, WCIU-TV’s mix of local programming—a mix of classic sitcoms and assorted oldies, and also including beloved horror host Rich “Svengoolie” Koz (now a nationally revered TV institution, seen throughout the country on MeTV)—attracted a loyal audience that grew instantly.

To this day, WCIU-TV’s mission of “serving the underserved” population of Chicago continues through our programming, filling the gaps that other broadcast stations often neglect. This includes airing local programs in time periods other stations do not, scheduling a significant number of popular African-American programs, and giving airtime and high-quality productions to local collegiate and professional sports.

WCIU-TV boasts a fiercely diverse workforce consisting of passionate broadcast professionals. We’re devoted to serving the needs of our viewership via relevant programs and wholehearted participation in worthy causes and events. We continue to build on our rich history of service and entertainment, and we’re committed to bringing meaningful broadcasting into the homes and hearts of our community.