WEAU-TV signed-on December 17, 1953 under the ownership of Central Broadcasting Company. This ownership group was led by a predecessor to Morgan Murphy Media and also included the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram along with WEAU radio (790 AM now WEAQ at 1150 AM, and 94.1 FM now WIAL). It has always been a primary NBC affiliate but initially carried programs from CBS, ABC, and DuMont. During the late-1950s, the station was also briefly affiliated with the NTA Film Network. One of the first well-known personalities on WEAU was "Sheriff Bob" Dawson who hosted a children's show during the 1950s and 1960s.