WAND is the NBC-affiliated television station for East-Central Illinois that is licensed to Decatur. It broadcasts a high definition digital signal on UHF channel 17 from a transmitter, along I-72, between Oreana and Argenta. Owned by Block Communications, the station has studios on South Side Drive in Decatur.
The station began operations on June 17, 1953 as WTVP, owned by the Prairie Broadcasting Company of Decatur (the call letters stood for TeleVision Prairie). It broadcast an analog signal on UHF channel 17 from a tower southwest of Decatur. It is the oldest station in central Illinois, and the state's second-oldest station on the UHF band. It initially hoped to pick up programs from all four networks of the time. Those hopes were dashed, and WTVP had to settle for a primary affiliation with ABC and a secondary affiliation with DuMont. It was one of ABC's first fourteen primary affiliates, and one of the few early ABC affiliates on the UHF band that survived the 1950s.
Like many stations in medium-sized markets, WTVP initially was not able to get a direct network feed. The station had to rely on kinescopes of ABC and DuMont programming from New York City and the programs often aired two weeks after their live broadcast. By October, however, WTVP was able to get ABC programming live from a microwave link in Danville. At this time, it also took on a secondary CBS affiliation. During the late-1950s, the station was also briefly affiliated with the NTA Film Network. Even after WCIA signed-on from Champaign in November, WTVP continued to air some CBS programs until 1959.
WTVP was sold to a Chicago-based group in 1958, only to be sold two years later to Metromedia. In 1961, the station activated a low-powered translator on channel 70 in Champaign. At the time, channel 17 provided only a Grade B ("rimshot") signal to the Champaign/Urbana side of the market and much of that area could not see it at all. Prairie Broadcasting merged with LIN Broadcasting at the end of 1965; channel 17 was LIN's first television property. On February 15, 1966, the call letters changed to the present WAND. Its previous calls currently reside on a PBS member station in Peoria.
On October 8, 1966, WAND activated a new 1,100-foot (340 m) tower located between Oreana and Argenta, retaining its original tower as a backup. It was topped with an experimental RCA "Vee-Zee" antenna, one of only two ever put into service. The second antenna was used by WJJY-TV in nearby Jacksonville. It was the first million-watt tower in the state and added Champaign-Urbana to the station's city-grade coverage. As a result, WAND became the first station in the region to provide a city-grade signal to all four of the market's largest cities. At the same time, the channel 70 translator was moved to Danville on channel 68 (with the call sign W68AA).
On March 26, 1978, WAND's tower was brought down by a massive ice storm. All but 100 feet of the tower fell down under the weight of massive sheets of ice. The collapse exposed a serious design flaw in the tower. Due to WAND's location near the bottom of the UHF dial, the antenna had been one of the heaviest ever used for broadcasting. However, the tower had been designed with the specifications of a much lighter antenna, and was thus not properly engineered to handle so much weight. The same storm destroyed the former tower of WJJY (which had gone off the air seven years earlier), which was of a similar design and had been assembled by the same company. WAND was off-the-air for two weeks until it returned to the air from its original tower. The translator was eventually moved back to Champaign still on channel 68. This left Danville without over-the-air programming from ABC for several months.
In 1979, WAND activated its current 1,289-foot (393 m) tower, also situated between Oreana and Argenta. It is the tallest broadcasting tower in Illinois. Operating at a full five million watts, it was the most powerful analog signal in the state. Around this time, the station moved the translator back to Danville, this time on channel 31. LIN wholly owned WAND until March 2000 when it sold 67 percent of the station to current owner Block Communications in exchange for 100 percent of WLFI-TV in Lafayette, Indiana. However, LIN continued to operate the station for another seven years as part of the deal. On September 5, 2005, WAND became an NBC affiliate, swapping affiliations with WICS/WICD. The switch came as part of a larger nationwide deal that saw sister station WDTN in Dayton, Ohio join NBC as well.
LIN sold its 33 percent share of WAND to Block, along with full operational control of the station, on November 9, 2007. However, WAND's website remained in the old format of most of the other LIN-owned stations of the time until the WAND web site was redesigned in late-2009 or early-2010.
In addition to its main signal, WAND can also be seen on two low-powered digital repeaters.
|Station||City of license||Channel||ERP||HAAT||Facility ID||Transmitter coordinates||Transmitter location|
|W31BX-D||Danville||31||3.08 kW||241 m||70853||downtown, on top of Vermilion County Clerk building|
|W40CV-D||Jacksonville||40||15 kW||469.1 m||182815||on Harts Prairie Road south of Franklin|
The station's digital channel is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|17.1||1080i||16:9||WAND-DT||Main WAND programming / NBC|
WAND shut down its analog signal, over UHF channel 17, on February 17, 2009, the original target date in which full-power television stations in the United States were to transition from analog to digital broadcasts under federal mandate (which was pushed back to June 12, 2009). The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 18. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former UHF analog channel 17. On June 6, 2011, the FCC granted WAND a construction permit to move its digital frequency back to its former analog allotment on channel 17; and to operate its digital signal to the maximum 1 million watts—equivalent to 5 million watts for an analog transmitter.
In late-1993, a Doppler weather radar was installed atop the station's building in Decatur. Then, in 2006, new technology was introduced called "Live Doppler 4X". This system consists of four real-time National Weather Service radars that run from various locations from Iowa, Missouri, and Illinois. WAND also has its own advanced weather vehicle to track severe weather occurring in Central Illinois called "Stormrunner". The vehicle provides real-time WeatherBug observations and streams live video back to the station. In 2009, WAND became the first station in the market to air a half-hour minute newscast on weekday afternoons at 4:30.
That was made possible due to the cancellation of Deal or No Deal. WAND immediately aired its 5 p.m. newscast making a full hour of local news. In July 2011, WAND moved its 4:30 p.m. show up to 4 and moved Jeopardy! back to its original spot at 4:30. On January 27, 2014, WAND expanded its weekday noon broadcast to one hour. It began broadcasting local newscasts in high definition on June 26, 2010, becoming the first commercial television station in the area to make the upgrade.