WDWS-AM (1400-AM), Champaign County’s first commercial radio station, signed on at 8 a.m. on January 24, 1937, from studios located on the second floor of the original News-Gazette building.
The process of creating WDWS began in March of 1935 when David W. Stevick applied to the Federal Communication Commission for a permit to operate the station. After his death in December of that same year, his wife, Helen, and daughter, Marajen, decided to continue the project. The station’s call letters carry his initials.
December of 1948 brought the first commercial FM signal to East Central Illinois when WDWS-FM took to the air. That same month the entire operation moved from downtown Champaign to its current location on South Neil Street. The new facility featured a 420-foot high tower, which at that time was said to be the highest structure in East Central Illinois.
WDWS has been a “full service” radio station since its inception. A strong local talent line-up, the largest radio news department in East Central Illinois and a strong commitment to sports have been the anchors of the WDWS brand. WDWS was a CBS affiliate for some 65 years before moving to ABC in 2002, then back to CBS. WDWS was been a St. Louis Cardinal Baseball affiliate starting in 1937 and, along with sister station WHMS, has been the flagship radio station for University of Illinois sports for close to 70 years. The stations produce all sports broadcasts to a 50 station statewide network.
WDWS-FM (97.5-FM) simulcast the programs of WDWS-AM until 1966 when the station created a separate identity with an automated beautiful music format. In the late 80’s the station transitioned away from an instrumental music format to one that featured soft contemporary vocals. During this transition WDWS-FM took on a new set of call letters, WHMS, in honor of Helen Mary Stevick. Over the last decade WHMS has evolved into a personality driven Adult Contemporary format.
The News-Gazette Inc. acquired WUIL (107.9-FM) in 2010 and broadcast a hard rock format until 2013. Then, the call letters flipped to WKIO and the format switched to classic hits.
WDWS, WHMS and WKIO have an unparalleled reputation as the two radio outlets truly dedicated to the needs of the community.