WBUI is the CW-affiliated television station for East-Central Illinois that is licensed to Decatur. It broadcasts a high definition digital signal on UHF channel 22 (or virtual channel 23.1 via PSIP) from a transmitter in Whitmore Township (between Oreana and I-72). Owned by GOCOM Media, WBUI is sister to Fox affiliate WRSP-TV (and its semi-satellite station, WCCU).
Both stations are operated through joint sales and shared services agreements by the Sinclair Broadcast Group making them sisters to ABC affiliate WICS (and its full-time satellite, WICD). All of the television stations share studios together on East Cook Street in Springfield's Eastside. However, WBUI also operates an advertising sales office on South Main Street/U.S. 51 in Downtown Decatur.
The station signed-on May 14, 1984 as WFHL and was owned by the local Foursquare Church. One half of the station's programing was Christian programming with shows such as 700 Club and local religious programs. The station's original studios were located on North Parkway Court in Decatur. The other half of the schedule consisted of recent barter cartoons, some older cartoons, family type off-network drama shows, a couple classic sitcoms, westerns, and old movies. In 1998, the station was sold to Paxson Communications who renamed the station WPXU.
The station replaced most hours of programming with infomercials until it joined the company's Pax network at its launch on August 31, 1998. At that point, the syndicated shows aired by previous ownership were dropped entirely. On October 5, WPXU added a secondary affiliation with UPN as did several other Paxson-owned stations.
ACME Communications acquired the station from Paxson on June 2, 1999 and changed it to WB affiliate WBUI. (Paxson, now Ion Media Networks, promptly moved the WPXU-TV call letters to its station in Jacksonville, North Carolina). At this point, some of the syndicated shows previously airing on the station returned along with mix of classic sitcoms and cartoons. Even after the sale, the station retained its secondary UPN affiliation with ACME expanding the arrangement to KPLR-TV in St. Louis and WBXX-TV in Knoxville by 2000.
When WCFN (now WCIX) joined UPN in 2002, WBUI became a sole WB affiliate. Gradually from about 2000 until 2005, the station phased out most cartoons and classic sitcoms for more recent sitcoms, talk shows, and court shows. In September 2006 with the merge between UPN and The WB, WBUI (owned by a former WB network executive) took The CW affiliation by default while WCFN joined the other new broadcast television network, MyNetworkTV. On June 20, 2007, GOCOM Media announced its intent to purchase this station from ACME Communications. The sale was approved on September 14 by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) which waived its duopoly rules for the sale.
The Central Illinois market did not have enough station owners at the time to legally permit another duopoly under normal conditions (there was already an existing duopoly in the market, Nexstar Broadcasting's WCIA and WCFN) but ACME claimed it was losing money on WBUI and could not find a buyer that did not require a duopoly waiver. The sale to GOCOM Media officially closed on October 25, 2007. At that point, the station consolidated its operations from its original studios at North Parkway Court in Decatur into WRSP's facilities in Springfield.
On December 31, 2012, the Sinclair Broadcast Group closed on the purchase of the non-license assets of GOCOM's three television stations (WRSP/WCCU and sister station WBUI) for approximately $25.6 million. Sinclair is providing sales and other non-programming services to the stations pursuant to shared services and joint sales agreements. Both WBUI and WRSP were initially operated from separate facilities from WICS/WICD. However, WCCU quickly moved its advertising sales operation from its location on South Neil Street/U.S. 45 in Champaign into WICD's studios. Eventually, WRSP and WBUI also moved from their offices on Old Rochester Road in Springfield and were consolidated into WICS' facility.
Through a previous arrangement with WICS, the ABC outlet's weekday morning meteorologist provided WBUI with weather forecasts seen on-air (during its airing of The Daily Buzz) and through it website that were taped in advance. The segments were appropriately titled "C-More Weather" (owing to its CW affiliation). WBUI no longer offers The Daily Buzz as part of its schedule.
The station's digital channel is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|23.1||1080i||16:9||WBUI-DT||Main WBUI programming / The CW|
WBUI shut down its analog signal, over UHF channel 23, 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 later pushed back to June 12, 2009). The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 22. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former UHF analog channel 23.