Southern Illinois University

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WSIU Public Broadcasting | Southern Illinois University Special Collections Research Center

Name: WSIU Public Broadcasting

Historical Note:

The Broadcasting Service at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, along with the Information Service, comprised the University Communications Service which was a unit within the university’s Division of Area Services.  Planning for the Division of Area Services began in 1951 and it was created in 1952 upon the appointment of first director Baker Brownell.  It was not a school or college within the university.  Rather, the Division managed the public relations, alumni placement and services, and community development consultation functions of the university.

The University Communications Service within the Division of Area Services was created by the Board of Trustees at its August 7, 1958 meeting.  It managed both the Information Service, which had been a part of Area Services from the beginning, and the newly created Broadcasting Service which was established that same year.  The 1958-1959 Annual Report of the Board of Trustees stated that the Broadcasting Service “shall be responsible for scheduling all radio and television programs and for performing and operating radio and television services sponsored by the University other than instruction and research in radio and television.”  The Information Service served as SIU’s centralized news reporting service and was responsible for print, photographic, and film media.

Speech professor Buren C. Robbins was appointed Director of Broadcasting Service effective July 1, 1959.  Robbins had taught courses in radio since 1950 and television since 1952 at SIU, and held a joint appointment in the Speech Department and Broadcasting Service.  At that time, staff and students were available to area radio stations for programs of entertainment and information.  Programs were also sent out over telephone connection to radio stations wishing to air them.  When the Department of Radio-Television was formally established in the School of Communications in 1958, Robbins chaired that department in addition to his appointment in Broadcasting Service.  Under Robbins’ leadership, Broadcasting Service launched WSIU-FM in September 1958, WSIU-TV 8 in 1961, and WUIS-TV 16 in 1968.

In 1964 the Division of Area Services was placed under the jurisdiction of the Vice President for Student and Area Services.  In 1975 Area Services was placed under the newly created Vice President for University Relations, and many of its units were reorganized under different offices and departments across campus.  It was likely that at this time the Broadcasting Service began reporting to the Office of Communications within University Relations.  Since about 1980, the Broadcasting Service has been an independent unit with the College of Mass Communication and Media Arts.  It is the umbrella title for the WSIU television and radio stations.

WSIU Public Broadcasting is licensed to the Board of Trustees.  The stations provide access to a full range of PBS, NPR, and local programming, as well as educational services for a broad range of learners, from pre-schoolers to graduate and adult students.  Also, the SIUC Broadcasting Service hosts informational and staff development video conferences and is active in distance learning and other outreach projects.  Stations and satellite services of the SIUC Broadcasting Service also provide SIUC students with a variety of hands-on learning experiences.  Additional services include the Southern Illinois Radio Information Service (SIRIS), operated by WSIU Radio, which helps nearly 1,000 individuals who are blind or whose physical condition prevents them from reading stay connected to the world. WSIU also offers professional development in the broadcast industry to hundreds of students each year.


Southern Illinois University Board of Trustees, Annual Report of the Board of Trustees, 1955-1956 (Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Board of Trustees), 160.

Southern Illinois University Board of Trustees, Annual Report of the Board of Trustees, 1958-1959 (Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Board of Trustees), 5.

Southern Illinois University Board of Trustees, Annual Report of the Board of Trustees, 1959-1960 (Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Board of Trustees), 25.

George K. Plochmann, The Ordeal of Southern Illinois University (Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 1959), 451-452, 491-493, 499-501.

Note Author: Matt Gorzalski

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