As New York City emergency teams burrowed through the wreckage of Tuesday's jetliner attacks on the Twin Towers, the signals of three local stations resurfaced by Wednesday morning.
WPIX-TV, the WB outlet, came back on air with its back-up transmitter late Tuesday afternoon, while WABC-TV and WNBC-TV were being carried on UHF outlets WNYE-TV and WPXN-TV. All stations were providing local news coverage of recovery efforts in the wake of the Twin Towers disaster. Their carriage had been restricted to cable in the immediate aftermath of the towers' collapse, which carried the stations' transmitters with them.
With the main broadcast antennas on top of the World Trade Center destroyed in the terrorist attack, most New York TV stations were knocked off the air and forced to rely on cable as their lifeline to an anxious city, and nation. Stations previously broadcasting from the center and knocked off the air were WNBC-TV, WNYW-TV, WABC-TV, WWOR-TV, WPIX-TV, WNET-TV, WPXN-TV, and WNJU-TV. FM radio stations affected were WKCR, WPAT, WNYC and WKTU.
Apparently, only WCBS-TV and WXTV-TV were able to maintain television signals by using alternative sources. WCBS-TV was able to go back on the air within hours of the tragedy by utilizing its digital facility (WCBS-DT) located on the Empire State Building. Robert Seidel, VP of Engineering for CBS, said the network has made a deal with the co-owned UPN network in which UPN will carry CBS' national prime time schedule for the next few days while CBS provides non-stop news coverage of the crisis.
An engineer from WNYW-DT, the digital Fox affiliate that also broadcasts from the Empire State Building, said they are making plans to distribute their NTSC signal from there within the next few days until an alternate transmission site is located.
- Michael Grotticelli and P.J. Bednarski