Some Hudson County residents who have had trouble receiving New York television stations since the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center are subscribing with their local cable providers so they can watch their favorite shows and news. Others who decided to wait for the stations to get new transmitters were pleased to find two weeks ago that local channels like 7 and 4 had finally been restored.
The Sept. 11 attack that shocked the nation had a tremendous impact on New York-area broadcasting stations. Local networks, with the exceptions of channels 2 and 41, which had back-up antennas atop the Empire State Building, lost their broadcasting signal after the north tower at the World Trade Center collapsed. As a result, they could not transmit broadcasts following the attack.
It is estimated that thousands of people without cable were left with only static on their televisions. Since Sept. 11, the major stations have set up antennas in nearby Alpine and atop the Empire State Building to provide their services.
It was only two weeks ago that channels 4 and 7 were restored. Channels 5, 9 and 11 had returned earlier. But WNET, Channel 13, which was the most vulnerable to the damage to its broadcast signal because it has the smallest percentage of viewers who subscribe to cable television, has suffered the largest loss, about a third of its audience. As a result, the station has completely stopped on-air fundraising.
WNET lost more than $20 million in damages, according to station spokeswoman Stella Giamarcy.
"People are still having a hard time receiving our signal," Giamarcy said last week.
The station has bought space in the Empire State Building and Alpine and can now be received by the five boroughs of New York, but the signals are not sufficient to reach all homes in New Jersey, Giamarcy said. The station is trying to deal with the problem, she said.
According to the cable companies servicing Hudson County, subscriptions have gone up slightly. Since cable is provided via fiber optic lines and coaxial cables, residents with cable connections are able to receive clear local feeds from network stations. Unlike cable, broadcast signals are transmitted through the air, like radio signals.
Cablevision, one of the cable providers in Hudson County, serves more than 73,500 customers in Bayonne, Hoboken, North Bergen, Union City, Weehawken and West New York. Company spokeswoman Kate M. Murphy would not confirm the exact number of new subscribers, but in an e-mailed response to The Reporter said, "Cablevision is very mindful of how important television is especially in past weeks. We continue to work to ensure that we have a sufficient staff to provide service to those who want it or need it as quickly as possible and as attractive a price as possible."
Cablevision, which has been providing cable video service in Hudson County since the early 1990s, is currently working with broadcasting stations to ensure their subscribers have access to all local channels, Murphy said.
Comcast Corporation, the leading cable provider in Jersey City, Secaucus, Kearny, Harrison and East Newark, has received its share of new subscribers since Sept. 11, but it is too premature to attribute the increase to the attacks, said Vice-President for Public Affairs Robert Smith.
Comcast serves approximately 47,000 homes in Jersey City. They began servicing residents in Hudson County in 1994. Comcast attains broadcasting feeds through smaller antennas that convert the signals into a cable connection.
"We've seen some modest growth, but it is unclear as of yet whether it is linked to the Sept. 11 attack," Smith said.
Immediately after Sept. 11, many Comcast subscribers experienced "minor inconveniences," Smith said. But all systems are now fixed.
Smith said if residents are not receiving any signals, with or without cable, they should contact technicians or their cable provider.
"If we see a large number of new subscribers in the coming months, we'll attribute it to the Sept. 11 attack," Smith said. "Right now we're back to normal."
In addition to Hudson County, Comcast serves 18 other counties in New Jersey. They provide basic cable and high speed Internet connections for a cost ranging from $30 to $95 a month.