About WGEMWGEM-TV's license was originally granted to Quincy Broadcasting Co., owned by the Quincy Herald-Whig; it was allotted channel 10. The station was affiliated with NBC and ABC from the start, while being represented by Walker Representation Co. Quincy Broadcasting's president at the time was T. C. Oakley; Joe Bonansinga was the station's founding general manager. The station received their DuMont transmitters on the same truck as nearby KHQA-TV (channel 7) on July 27, 1953. The crews competed to see who could get on the air first. WGEM began interim broadcasting two hours per night on September 4, 1953.
During the 1960s, WGEM shared its secondary ABC affiliation with CBS affiliate KHQA-TV. This arrangement ended in 1969, when WJJY-TV in Jacksonville, Illinois, went on the air as the ABC affiliate for Quincy; when WJJY went bankrupt and shut down in 1971, WGEM resumed carrying a few ABC shows until the mid-1990s. The station also had a secondary affiliation with Fox between 1990 and 1994, after which the station moved its Fox affiliation to a separate cable-only channel. WGEM-TV is one of the few and longest operating television stations in the country, outside of network owned-and-operated stations, that has had the same call letters, owner, channel number, and primary network affiliation throughout its history.
Since the mid-to-late 1990s, WGEM has branded solely with its call letters.