Federal Aid for NYC Broadcasters

Television broadcasters in New York City will receive approximately $8.2 million in federal assistance to rebuild antennas lost in the terrorist attack of September 11, according to a December 23 report in the New York Times. Almost all of the city's broadcasters had their transmitters mounted on the top of the north tower of the World Trade Center, which collapsed after being struck by a hijacked airliner.

The WTC was the highest point in the NY area, ideal for TV transmission. With the loss of the tower, local broadcasters lost up to 35% of their viewers, with serious ramifications for advertising revenue. Some analysts are predicting an advertising revenue loss of as much as 15% this year for NY broadcasters. Approximately 20% of the NY area's 7.3 million TV-equipped homes are not hooked up to cable.

The aid money is part of an $8.2 billion emergency aid bill approved by Congress the week before Christmas. Of the total, 1% will be available to broadcasters, who estimate that the total cost of constructing a new broadcasting tower, possibly in the WTC area, will run $30 million to $40 million. A coalition of ten local stations is looking into the design of a new tower.

Since September 11, TV viewers in NYC without cable access have been able to watch only channels 2 and 41, which have backup antennas on the Empire State Building, the Times noted. Aid for NY broadcasters was secured by Senator Charles E. Schumer, who lobbied hard to win funding for them. "Television and communications are key industries in New York," Senator Schumer explained. "To leave them with a significant hole in their broadcast network is bad for the New York economy."