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Tragedy's new tall order

The New York TV stations that lost their primary transmitters at the World Trade Center and are now making do with transmitters outside the city could be broadcasting analog signals from the Empire State Building by the end of the year, according to a consultant.

But, said Oded Bendov, senior vice president and chief scientist at Dielectric Communications, a leading manufacturer of broadcast antennas, they may not be able to broadcast at full power. And their digital service will have to wait, he said. "Digital broadcasts will be looked at separately, after all analog signals are taken care of."

The TV All-Industry Committee, which comprises the city's major broadcasters, hired Dielectric and Electronic Research Inc. to study whether the Empire State Building could accommodate all the stations' signals—analog and digital—without their interfering with each other. That study could take two years to complete.

Dielectric is working on the TV side; ERI, on the radio.

Nine TV stations and four radio stations were broadcasting from Tower 1 of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11.

WCBS-TV switched to its backup transmitter on the Empire State Building. But the other broadcasters had to scramble to restore over-the-air service. About 20% of the market's 7.3 million homes do not subscribe to either cable or satellite service and rely solely on the broadcast signals.

Today, New York's two Fox-owned stations, WWOR-TV and WNYW(TV), are broadcasting at low power from temporary facilities at the Empire State Building. WABC-TV, WNBC(TV), noncommercial WNET(TV), Telemundo's WNJU-TV and Tribune's WPIX(TV) are broadcasting from a tower in Alpine, N.J., several miles north of Manhattan. (WPIX also has a secondary transmitter on the Empire State Building.) And Paxson's WPXN-TV is broadcasting from a tower in West Orange, N.J.

Seeking a permanent home on the Empire State Building, WWOR-TV, WNYW, WABC-TV, WNBC, WNET, WPIX and WPXN-TV would join WCBS-TV, Univision's WXTV-TV and WHSE-TV, and noncommercial WNYE(TV). Of course, each expects to broadcast two signals, one analog and one digital.

Displaced radio stations WKCR-FM, WPAT-FM, WNYC-FM and WKTU(FM) have made temporary arrangements elsewhere, but at least one, WPAT-FM, hopes to end up on the Empire State Building.

Building owner Helmsley-Spear maintains the mast atop the building and is working closely with the broadcasters. "We are looking to get as many as we can up with a decent signal as soon as we can," said Alex Smirnoff, director of telecommunications, for the Empire State Building.

Smirnoff said WABC-TV, WNBC, WNET and WPXN-TV could begin installing temporary transmitters there within a month. However, he said, permanent facilities will have to await results of the Dielectric and ERI studies and would not be completed before the end of next year.

Not everyone is unhappy at Alpine. Bill Silverman, an engineer with Telemundo's WNJU-TV, a Spanish-language station, said the station is reaching more people from Alpine because it is using an omnidirectional antenna. It was using a directional antenna at the World Trade Center to make sure it had good coverage of the Hispanic populations of Harlem and the Bronx.

"We had a Grade B signal in our city of license [Linden, N.J.] ," he said, "and we have to change that now to a Grade A."