WCIU-TV began broadcasting in 1964, making Channel 26 the first UHF station in Chicago. In fact, the call letters stand for "Chicago's 1st UHF" station.
In the mid-60's, few people had UHF tuners on their sets, so Channel 26's audience was very limited. The initial program schedule contained a mix of old reruns, including the now almost forgotten sitcoms "Our Miss Brooks" and "December Bride," 1930's western movies, eclectic programs, such as bull fights from Mexico, and local wrestling. There was a good deal of local production, with personalities such as Marty Faye and Two Ton Baker hosting programs.
WCIU-TV has always "served the underserved" population of Chicago. Initially that meant airing various ethnic programs in Italian, Polish and other languages. Most significant was WCIU's pioneering efforts in serving the African-American community. "A Black's View of the News" was the first program of its kind in the market. "Red Hot & Blue" was a groundbreaking Friday night music program that brought the sounds of urban Chicago to a wide audience. Everyone is familiar with "Soul Train," but did you know that it began as a daily afternoon program on WCIU-TV when Don Cornelius, a station employee at the time, created the format? It was the first time African American youth had a dance program to call its own.
As the years progressed, an increasing amount of Spanish language programming was seen on WCIU-TV. Many shows were locally produced, including "AYUDA" (the Spanish term meaning "Help"). It was a live television forum to help Spanish-speaking Chicagoans navigate the issues of work place, government programs, and social service agencies. Additionally, WCIU-TV became the home of the early Spanish language TV Network, SIN, and as the years progressed, was home to Telemundo and Univision. During daytime hours, WCIU-TV produced "The Stock Market Observer," a daily seven hour live business news program that is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for the show telecast the most hours.
In 1995, WCIU-TV returned to its roots as an independent television station, when the Univision network purchased a station in the Chicago market. Almost immediately, WCIU-TV's mix of local programming, including market favorite "Svengoolie," classic sitcoms and TV oldies attracted a loyal audience that grew instantly.
Still, WCIU-TV's mission of "serving the underserved" population continues through its programming that counters what other broadcast stations offer. This includes offering programs in time periods others stations do not feature local programming , scheduling a significant number of popular African American programs and featuring a significant amount of local collegiate and professional sports.