It All Started Back in 1986 ...
WEIU-TV 51 began operation on July 1, 1986, offering basic programming, including local news, public affairs, and instructional programming to the people of east-central Illinois for the first time. Things were a little rough in the beginning as dollars were tight and staff members were inexperienced.
"Ladies and gentlemen, welcome live, to the campus of Eastern Illinois University." With that introduction, Daniel Thornburgh, then the director of University Relations, christened WEIU-TV during its live on-air dedication on July 1, 1986.
WEIU struggled at first to get picked up on local cable systems in the area. Eventually this goal was accomplished as WEIU began building a presence in the east-central Illinois region.
WEIU has always focused on local programming for a region that is underserved by its commercial stations. Being a public television station, WEIU has many advantages over other stations when it comes to local programming. Some of the first local programs that aired on WEIU included Time Out for Trivia, EIU Connection, and Coach's Corner.
WEIU's news program at the time, News Scan (now News Watch), aired on the campus cable system before the launch of WEIU and later made the transition to channel 51. On Sept. 1, 1986, News Scan aired on WEIU for the first time. At the time, about 50 students produced two live newscasts airing daily at 5 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. The news was put on hold in 1990 when the amount of staffing for News Scan experienced a dramatic decrease. The news returned to WEIU, however, on Feb. 13, 1990, airing a half-hour show at 6 p.m. and getting rid of the 9:30 p.m. newscast.
Sports programming has also been a strong part of the history of WEIU. Shows like Panther Country (now Panther Sports Talk) have virtually been with the station from the start. The first episode of Panther Country aired in August 1987 with host David Kidwell. WEIU has also tried whenever possible to air live as many EIU sporting events as possible.
On Jan. 30, 1992, WEIU officially joined the PBS network, airing 10 hours of PBS children's programming weekly. Shows included Captain Kangaroo, Mr. Rogers, and Reading Rainbow. The station later took on more PBS programming as it continued growing into the station you watch today.