About WICD ABC15 & News Channel 20The station signed-on April 23, 1959 as WCHU-TV (for CHampaign/Urbana). It was an NBC affiliate and aired an analog signal on UHF channel 33. It was owned by Plains Television Partners and was a low-powered full-time satellite of Springfield's WICS. The WCHU signal traveled about 15 miles (24 km) from a transmitter at its studios atop the Inman Hotel in Downtown Champaign. However, getting a decent signal from Springfield (85 miles (137 km) west of Champaign) was usually hit-or-miss at best. Plains Television had to build a microwave tower in Northwestern Champaign to send the WICS signal to the WCHU studios. With a more reliable signal, the station began a more routine schedule on September 14. It began broadcasting in color the next year.
In July 1960, Plains Television Partners bought WDAN-TV in Danville. That station had debuted on December 19, 1953 as a low-powered ABC affiliate broadcasting on channel 24 with a signal radiating about 25 miles (40 km) from its transmitter. WDAN was owned by the Gannett Company along with the Danville Commercial-News newspaper and WDAN radio (1490 AM). After the sale, Plains Television changed WDAN-TV's call letters to WICD (for WICS Danville; Federal Communications Commission [FCC] regulations at the time required separately-owned stations to use different call signs, and the Commercial-News retained WDAN radio) and made it a full repeater of WCHU. From 1960 until 1967, WCHU/WICD aired some locally originated programs from the WCHU studios in Champaign. However, WICD's transmitter was not capable of broadcasting local programming in color.