WSIU 8 (Television station : Carbondale, Ill.) | Southern Illinois University Special Collections Research Center
Southern Illinois University began exploring the establishment of public educational television in the early 1950s. The SIU Board of Trustees discussed the Federal Communications Commission’s hearings on assigning television channels for educational purposes at its May 25, 1951 meeting. The Board and university administration felt that national competition among public universities for channel allocation and the limited number of channels available created an urgent need to explore obtaining a station. Although the university’s budgetary climate was a concern at the time, SIU administration was aware of the educational potential of television. The Board voted unanimously “that the President of the University be authorized to explore to the full the possibilities of obtaining an educational television station at Southern Illinois University with authority to negotiate for a channel but without making definite application or commitment concerning the construction of a transmitting station or a license to operate until a full report has been made to the board.”
University President Delyte W. Morris gave a progress report to the Board at the November 16, 1951 meeting, noting 8 steps the university had taken to obtain a public television channel. Among those included a “submitted statement to the Federal Communications Commission indicating the University’s great interest in television as an educational medium,” and requested “that the Commission assign Channel 10 to Carbondale for educational telecasting.” At the December 8, 1951 meeting, the Board recommended that no action be taken until the State allocated funds for the creation of a station, and also considered the possibility of purchasing air time from a commercial station in lieu of operating a non-profit commercial station.
Buren C. Robbins, Director of Broadcasting Service at SIU, and other university staff visited more than 50 communities in southern Illinois’ 31 counties to determine their views and needs regarding instructional television. The FCC assigned Carbondale UHF (Ultra High Frequency) Channel 61 to Carbondale in 1952. However, a UHF channel was insufficient to serve all of southern Illinois and most receivers in the area could only receive VHF signals. From 1952-1958, the Broadcasting Service within SIU presented educational programs using the facilities of area television stations. In 1957, the FCC revised its allocations and issued VHF Channels 3 and 8 to southern Illinois. Southern Illinois University requested that Channel 8 be designated for educational purposes which was granted by the FCC in 1958. On June 15, 1959, SIU requested to the FCC a construction permit for Channel 8 in Carbondale, which was granted on November 18, 1959. The permit originally required the station to be installed by July 18, 1960, but financial difficulties in Illinois prompted SIU to request an extension of the construction permit to January 18, 1961. Construction of the televisions station was then completed and WSIU-TV Channel 8 signed on the air on November 6, 1961. In 1968 WUSI TV 16 in Olney signed on the air. In subsequent years WSIU grew to include WUSI 90.3 FM in Olney, WVSI 88.9 FM in Mt. Vernon, and digital television channels WSIU DT 40 and WUSI DT 19.
Southern Illinois University Board of Trustees, Annual Report of the Board of Trustees, 1950-1951 (Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Board of Trustees), 290-291.
Southern Illinois University Board of Trustees, Annual Report of the Board of Trustees, 1951-1952 (Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Board of Trustees), 33-34, 36.
John Lambert Kurtz, "A History of the Southern Illinois Instructional Television Association, 1961-1966" (Master's Thesis, Southern Illinois University, 1966), 5-8.