The list of Armstrong’s accomplishments reads
like a primer of electronic circuits. Of his circuits and
technological innovations, the most important is probably his
contribution of Frequency Modulation (FM) in 1933; the very technology
used to deliver the aural portion of analog television today. A web
site dedicated to him goes rather deeply into his accomplishments and
the Alpine site:
http://users.erols.com/oldradio/index.htm#Y In addition to the
Alpine site, some broadcasters chose the Empire State Building.
Fiore told us that of particular concern at
either site were more about the location of equipment and logistics.
Where and how to get equipment to the Empire State Building, Can
vendors even get into New York with trucks and cars?, If they can,
where will they stay?, Can they get into the Empire State Building?
--- All of these types of issues were discussed.
Al Smirnoff, the transmission site manager for
the Empire State Building was on the call and it was decided that he,
along with station personnel would find out from NY emergency services
and determine how to handle this. There was a meeting the next day to
determine these needs.
Offers for replacement equipment came in from
equipment suppliers, large and small, both here and from our neighbors
up north, Canada. With a place to put them, antennas, transmission
lines and transmitters with their diplexers began to arrive within
In the interim, the level of cooperation
extended to the extent that unaffected stations carried some of the
downed network O&O’s programs. Keep in mind that nearly all
programming was the coverage of the aftermath. At one time or another,
WABC-TV was carried by WNYE-TV (channel 25, the Board of Education
station, based in Brooklyn. WHSE-TV channel 68, Home Shopping Network,
located in northern New Jersey, and New Jersey Network (PBS), which
has a station, WNJM channel 50, in Montclair, NJ, just eight miles
from the Empire State Building.
According to one source, all NYC stations feed
cable directly, “even out in Suffolk county LI.” To many, over air is
almost an afterthought. One cable watcher told us that on WABC, they
were told: “if you have any friends or acquaintances that do not have
cable, tell them you can find us on channels 25, 67 or 68.”
The New Jersey Network got their WABC-TV feed
via satellite (Galaxy 1), as did others, until about 3 AM on Saturday
(9/15), when WABC-TV resumed regular programming. Bill Schnorbus,
Director of Engineering for New Jersey Public Broadcasting confirmed
that his organization also offered their Montclair, NJ tower space to
WABC & WNET.
Victor Joo, General Manager of WMBC-TV in
Sparta, NJ told us that his station carried WNYW-TV, (FOX) programming
for about 3 hours, but switch off them due to problems getting a clean
feed. They did, however get a clean feed from WNBC-TV (NBC) and
carried their programming for some 40 hours, until they resumed normal
Jim Zaroda, Regional Sales Manager for EMCEE
said: “EMCEE received an emergency call from New York's Telemundo
station, WNJU looking for a UHF transmitter. EMCEE had a portable 1KW,
broadband unit that was deployed to Harrisburg, PA. We drove to
Harrisburg, where it was retuned and ship to the crisis area.” Harris
Broadcast, LARCAN and Thales Broadcast & Multimedia (formerly Thomcast)
redirected transmitters destined for customers they had orders for in
Tennessee, Montana, Texas and South America.
Nat Ostroff, Vice President of New Technology
Sinclair Broadcast Group, owners of Acrodyne Transmitter Company,
said: “So far Acrodyne and Sinclair have made offers, within hours of
the events, to supply transmission equipment and expertise to whomever
need same. Sinclair is prepared to decommission some of its solid
state UHF DTV systems as well as ship units we have not yet installed,
overnight to NYC plus “Acro” would convert them to NTSC.”
Scott Miron, Technical Services Manager at
LARCAN reported: “There were some Canadian/US border issues, but
given that this was “emergency broadcasting equipment” and together
with our brokerage company and all of the correct paperwork, we did
pass it through customs and the help of the FBI, who carefully
examined the shipment.” Reports of our boarders being sealed were not
misreported. After US boarder folks, with the help of the FBI,
finished their “through inspection” of the crates and equipment,
things got rolling again.
Who’s Got, or Is Getting – What?
CBS is in good shape. Bob Seidel, a senior
technical manager for CBS said: “The Empire State Building is our
geographically diverse backup site for WCBS Channel 2 and our main
site for WCBS-DT, Channel 56 (or Channel 2-1).
“WCBS is on at full power from the Empire State
Building on channel 2 analog and WCBS-DT is on full power as well.”
Sidel said that viewer reports indicate that they are servicing their
full Grade B contour for both analog and digital. “WCBS local into
local service on EchoStar and DirecTV was briefly interrupted when
Building 7 collapsed, Sidel continued. “ However, we have restored
service to EchoStar and DirecTV via a dedicated C-Band transponder.
WCBS-DT service on EchoStar was uninterrupted.” When asked what the
future holds, Sidel said: “With the loss of the World Trade Center we
are now building a geographically diverse backup site for WCBS,
Channel 2, which I am not at liberty to discuss at this time.”
LARCAN shipped a 6 KW transmitter to WNBC-TV
who also took delivery of a 20 KW Harris transmitter in Alpine, New
Jersey. An associate at NBC in Burbank told me that KNBC-TV had a
channel 4 antenna in storage at Mt. Wilson and was trucked to WNBC-TV.
It must have gotten there as they resumed broadcasting five days
Not everyone had equipment stored across the
country they could draw on. Andrew and Dielectric answered the call
with transmission line and antennas. Dielectric shipped antennas,
feeders and accessories to WCBS-TV2, WNYW-TV5, WABC-TV7, WWOR-TV9,
WPIX-TV11, WNET-TV13, WPXN-TV31. We also have antennas and line going
to WNJU-TV47 starting early next week. Despite the antenna being sent
from the west coast KNBC-TV, Dielectric says they are also sending
antennas, feeders and accessories to them. And that’s not all.
According to Lewis M. Kling, President of
Dielectric, “Efforts will continue around the clock until we have met
the needs of both our customers and the people of
New York City.”
Andrew Corp has supplied HELIAX® air dielectric
cable to facilitate the construction of an emergency broadcast site in
New Jersey. In addition to this, Andrew has supplied a standby
broadcast antenna and transmission line for the Telemundo station in
New York. According to Andrew Corp spokesperson, Greta Brown,
“Employees at our Portland Maine facility are working to get
essentials, such as diplexers to enable World Trade Center
broadcasters to restore communications. We shipped two diplexers and
Low pass filters (analog) to Harris Corp. for NYC Channels 4 & 11 on
Brown added, “In addition to broadcast
infrastructure material, we are also working with wireless companies
to help them restore or enhance cellular communications.”
Jim Clayton, General Manager of WNYW-TV (FOX)
told us that they were back on the air from the Empire State Building
with a 20 KW Harris transmitter.
In a conversation with Dave May, Director of
Customer Service and Don Carpenter, Manager of Television Service
Transmission equipment at Harris, they said they’d shipped new
transmitters for WABC-TV, WNBC-TV, WNYW-TV and WWOR-TV on September
11. A transmitter for WPIX was shipped on September 12 and a
transmitter for WCBS is in the process of being built.
WABC-TV will get a 2 KW transmitter in Alpine,
New Jersey. WABC-TV’s Kurt Hanson told us that his station was back on
the air around noon on Saturday (9/15). They are using a temporary
panel antenna and are looking to replace it with a more substantial
device that will give them better coverage. WABC-TV’s Hanson told us
he was “truly impressed with the communal effort from other
broadcasters, vendors and the folks working at the Alpine site.”
WWOR-TV, now owned by FOX, will resume
operations from the Empire State Building. They took delivery of a
LARCAN 3 KW transmitter and a 2 KW Harris, while Tribune’s WPIX-TV has
opted to use a 10 KW Harris in Alpine, NJ.
Everett Helm, Director of RF Engineering for
Oregon Public Broadcasting (Portland, OR) told us that he’d been asked
to ship a 10 KW “loaner transmitter” they’d been using from Thomcast
directly to WNET in Alpine, NJ. WNET was back up and operating,
temporarily, with a 1 KW internally diplexed LARCAN transmitter on
Although WNET’s Frank Graybill was quick to
express his appreciation for the cooperation he’d received, saying:
“The cooperation from broadcasters across the country, manufacturers
and vendors has been outstanding,” in getting back on the air.
Graybill told us that he was very surprised when a guy in a pickup
truck drove up with a load of HELIAX transmission line on Wednesday
(9/12) and said: “Here it is. Use what you need.” If that wasn’t
enough, Graybill said he was further surprised when he was able to get
an antenna the same day from Myat in Norwood, NJ.
Graybill said he did have some concerns. One
was obtaining local property variances for the Alpine, NJ site. In
addition to this, he mentioned that the coverage is very different
than what they had been accustomed to, taking into account the lower
power at this point. The Alpine sight is some 500 feet lower than the
World Trade Center. Issues of covering the south Jersey coast were
mentioned. Graybill did say that they would probably look to
translators to fill in some of the gaps.
Fiore also told us that his company was able to
deliver two 100 KW transmitters, one each to WPXN in West Orange, NJ
and WNJU, who will be joining the others at the Alpine, NJ site. In
the interim, Pax's WPXN (Channel 31) is being seen over several Low
Power TV stations; East Orange, N.J. and Amityville, Long Island, NY.
Viewers calling WPXN on 9/19/01 are being told that they, themselves,
will be back on the air within a week.
With their transmitters, LARCAN dispatched 3
Technical Representatives to provide installation services at the
other end. The other manufacturers said they had provided technical
assistance as well. Volunteers have made offers from nearly every
television market across the country. If nothing else, this incident,
like no other has coalesced American and its broadcast community.
Getting From Here To There
studio-to-transmitter links (STL) and, in some cases,
transmitter-to-studio links (TSL) had to be established for nearly all
stations to all the new transmitter sites.
President, Dr. John B. Payne, reported that his company is located
less than an hour away from New York City and was able to address the
emergency needs of broadcasters during this time of crisis.
Dr. Payne said they
received a call on Tuesday (9/11) from WABC-TV to provide an STL from
their studio facilities at Lincoln Square to the new transmitter site
in Alpine, NJ. “We sent an engineer with the equipment to assist the
ABC engineers and had the link up and running by mid day Wednesday
(9/12),” Payne mentioned, adding; “Nucomm is also working with WNJU, &
WNET to provide emergency microwave equipment for the Alpine STL.”
Nucomm also received
a call on 9/11 to provide microwave relay links for New York One, Time
Warner Cable’s 24 hour news channel, WNJU’s ENG and WNET’s ENG. These
were hand delivered the following morning (9/12) to help re-establish
the respective companies’ live ENG operations.
Robert Morrissette, Microwave Radio
Communications (MRC)’s North East Regional Sales Manager told us that
his company was providing STL links for WPIX-TV and WCBS-TV. In
addition to this they are also supplying two-way STL and TSLs for WWOR-TV
Since electronic news gathering (ENG) is an
intrigue part of most all television operations and the World Trade
Center played a part in nearly all stations ENG networks, MRC was
called upon to help WABC-TV, WNYW-TV, WWOR and CNN with their central
and remote ENG receive sites.
Audrey Spivack, FCC spokesperson said: “The FCC
is available to grant any necessary regulatory relief; such as issuing
Special Temporary Authority (STA) where needed or allowing companies
to install remote towers.” Spivack added: “The Wireless Bureau
granted a company's request for some extra temporary spectrum in NY.
The Mass Media Bureau has granted a few STAs, including one to set up
a temporary site in Alpine, NJ. They also granted a couple to operate
low power TV stations with increased power. Spivack concluded by
saying: “MMB has been in constant contact with the nine broadcasters
affected by the World Trade Center collapse and the MMB is acting
quickly on any requests.”
Along with most other federal agencies, the FCC
did closed its offices and sent its employees home shortly after in
the terrorist attacks (9/11) in New York City, Washington, DC, and
elsewhere. The FCC issued no emergency declaration nor other special
instructions but did published a notice, one week after the terrorist
attack (9/18), suspending routine weekly and monthly EAS testing until
October 2, 2001. The notice said the reason for the suspension was “to
avoid potential public confusion or fear in connection with the recent
What Happened To EAS?
Additionally, during this period, cable systems
need not comply with the rules regarding the handling of the routine
weekly and monthly EAS tests. The FCC says they “will not take
enforcement action against broadcast stations or cable systems for not
complying with the rules relating to these routine EAS tests during
this period. Should an extension be required, an additional FCC
public notice will be issued. All other EAS rules must be complied
with.” No mention was made as to why the EAS was never utilized by the
President, or anyone else for that matter.
Further Down The Road
Irrespective of the equipment and location,
everything was being installed into what are only temporary sites,
however long term prognosis is that Empire simply does not have the
infrastructure to handle too much more, Vertical real estate in NYC
will be at a premium. Permanency is a real issue.
The next step is for all the affected stations
to turn these low-power emergency installations into full-power
transmission facilities that can be used for the long haul. Despite
all the talk of rebuilding the Trade Center towers, any reconstruction
would be years in coming, and that means the Empire State Building and
the Alpine tower are likely to remain the area's primary TV sites for
One other consideration not directly addressed
in our conversations, was an underlying tone of the need for
diversified auxiliary back up transmitter sites. This is under study,
as mentioned by CBS and will undoubtedly be the topic of more than one
senior management meeting when things begin to calm down from this
initial resurrection activity.
Thompson’s Fiore probably summed it up best:
“All in all, I can't help but be proud of how all of us have responded
to the catastrophe not just all the people here scheduling equipment,
trucks, personnel but also all of the contractors, customers and
installation crews. Even other customers who were in the process of
having systems installed had no problems in allowing us to free up
people to send to the NY sites.
“If the terrorists think they set us back, I
for one , would be pleased to say all they did was make us more
committed to working together to overcome adversity, some of it short
term some long term, it is they who had better be looking over their
shoulder,” Fiore concluded.
Lest We forget
It would not be proper to conclude this report
without mentioning those fellow engineers who are missing. For the
most current information on this matter please visit the New York City
SBE Chapter’s web site,
www.broadcast.net/~sbe15 You will also find information on how to
donate to the Broadcast Engineer's Relief Fund, which has been put in
place to help the families of those engineers that have been lost.