Broadcasting History of the Empire State Building

Empire State Building

You probably have heard about New York City and why it’s popularly known as the “Big Apple”. Many people say that if you can make it in New York City, you can make it anywhere. New York City is the center for the best legal, technological, medical and scientific geniuses in the world. It’s the home to some of the finest universities too such as Columbia University and New York University. New York City is one of the world’s leading metropolises for art, fashion, theatre and broadcasting too.

While there are a lot of things and sights to see in New York City, your trip wouldn’t be complete unless you have visited the famous Empire State Building. Named as “America’s Favorite Architecture,” the Empire State Building is one of the world’s famous buildings and a historical landmark too. The Empire State Building was constructed on March 17, 1930 and was officially opened on May 1, 1931 by President Hoover. 

After eight months, a television transmitting antenna was erected atop the structure. For the first time in history, multiple FM stations are operating at full power from a single shared antenna system atop the tallest building in New York City. The antenna carries the signal of more than a dozen top New York radio stations to millions of listeners in the tri-state area. 

The Early History

The top most portion of the Empire State Building was originally meant for the National Broadcasting Company or NBC. NBC started experimenting with television transmission from the Empire State antenna on December 22, 1931. There were separate transmitters for visual and aural transmissions intended for call letters, respectively W2XF and W2XK. The two transmitters were operated with another NBC television transmitter located in the New Amsterdam theatre studio found on 42nd street. Call letters W2XBS were carried by this station but then later on transferred to the Empire State transmitter. 

The very first experimental transmission was 120-line pictures using mechanical scanning for film and live subjects. It was believed to be the first high power and frequency transmissions ever received and monitored. The tubes had green fluorescent screens during that period because the black and white television wasn’t developed yet. During the test, it indicated that a great resolution is necessary for a satisfactory public television service. 

The antenna used in the Empire State Building has undergone a lot of remodeling so the public can enjoy a better television experience. In 1936, a new antenna was installed and tests were run. These tests were also the first to use the iconoscope camera. In 1938, NBC remodeled it again and a new NBC antenna was installed. In January 1940, the company started to regularly operate FM stations from the antenna on the same site. 

These days, the Empire State Building has been popular in the broadcast industry. They own the master FM antenna and lease it to the individual FM stations. Currently, 22 stations are transmitting from the building. The Empire State Building antenna has come a long way since its first installation and has been giving excellent public services for broadcasting.