[opendtv] Re: Television for disaster coverage

  • From: Mark Schubin <tvmark@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: opendtv@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Mon, 26 Dec 2005 13:21:02 -0500

One more tidbit, from the 9/11 Commission Report on communications 
during the disaster, quoting a fire chief:  "People watching on TV 
certainly had more knowledge of what was happening a hundred floors 
above us than we did..."


Mark Schubin wrote:

>Happy Boxing Day!
>This will be largely a rehash of things that have appeared here 
>previously, but I thought it might be worth reiterating them.
>- OTA TV vs. cable and satellite TV - When the 9/11 attacks happened, 
>the TV transmission facilities on the World Trade Center were destroyed, 
>but, except for a very brief interruption of one of the least viewed 
>station's signals, cable and satellite carriage of all stations 
>continued.  Only WCBS-TV had a working transmitter in the Empire State 
>Building (same as after the first World Trade Center attack 8.5 years 
>earlier), so they were the only station receivable off-air via antenna.  
>WCBS-TV's ratings went up, and the other stations' went down, until the 
>other stations got back on the air.  I think the only conclusion that 
>can be drawn is that the increased ratings were due to off-air viewers 
>using antennas.
>- Radio news vs. TV news -
>     - Power failures - There is no question that radio is more likely 
>than TV to be receivable during a power failure.  There are many 
>battery-operated TVs and many TV-sound radios (many models of the latter 
>are now being sold specifically for disasters), but their numbers pale 
>by comparison with portable radios.  Distasters, however, are not 
>necessarily accompanied by power failures.  When the 9/11 attacks 
>occurred, almost all of the New York market continued to be served with 
>electric power.  The same was true of our recent transit strike and the 
>recent heavy northeast snowstorm.
>     - News departments - Fewer than half (but not too much fewer than 
>half) of U.S. TV stations have news departments.  A MUCH smaller 
>percentage of U.S. radio stations do.  I have taken long drives across 
>stretches of the U.S. without being able to find any news on the car radio.
>     - Destroyed transmission facilities - When a hurricane knocks down 
>towers or floods transmitters, the public searches for whatever they can 
>get.  In some cases, that might be TV rather than radio.  I have been at 
>my relatives' home in rural Colorado when weather has knocked out all of 
>the radio translators -- and phone and Internet service -- but not the 
>TV translator.  At those times, we watch TV to find out what's going on.
>     - Pictures - TV screens can present information beyond what a 
>commentator says.  The projected path of a hurricane or tornado is 
>easily seen instantly on a map.  A list of bridge closings can be 
>presented as a rolling or crawling graphic.
>     After 9/11, a local political candidate here in New York set up a 
>TV tuned to WCBS-TV outside his campaign office and placed rows of 
>folding chairs in front of it.  The chairs were soon filled, even though 
>the TV offered nothing TV viewers couldn't get at home.  I can think of 
>more than one possible explanation.  Maybe people sought a sense of 
>community.  But maybe people who normally get their news from newspapers 
>or radio (and didn't even own a TV) felt a need to watch TV during the 
>disaster.  Other than owning a TV, I am one of the latter.
>Personally, I get most of my local news from the three daily and three 
>weekly local newspapers I read.  Secondarily, I get news from a 
>non-commercial radio news station, which, despite a sizable news 
>department, usually rehashes stories from The New York Times (and which, 
>after the post-transit-strike mediator-requested media blackout of the 
>continuing negotiations, announced that we should "stay tuned for 
>complete coverage of the media blackout").  Under normal circumstances, 
>I do not watch TV news.
>That makes me an anomalous American.  Most Americans prefer to get their 
>local news via TV  -- even Americans who prefer to get national and 
>international news via the Internet, newspapers, or other sources.  But 
>when disasters happen even I turn to TV.
>Disasters are not normal circumstances.  Neither are elections.  I tune 
>to some form of TV (sometimes our local cable-news channel, NY1) to 
>watch the results at the bottom of the screen.  I can quickly discover 
>the results I want to know about long before radio commentators get to 
>them (IF they ever bother to cover a local state-assembly or 
>city-council district race).
>Sorry for the rehash, but it seemed necessary in view of recent posts.
>You can UNSUBSCRIBE from the OpenDTV list in two ways:
>- Using the UNSUBSCRIBE command in your user configuration settings at 
>- By sending a message to: opendtv-request@xxxxxxxxxxxxx with the word 
>unsubscribe in the subject line.
You can UNSUBSCRIBE from the OpenDTV list in two ways:

- Using the UNSUBSCRIBE command in your user configuration settings at 

- By sending a message to: opendtv-request@xxxxxxxxxxxxx with the word 
unsubscribe in the subject line.

Other related posts: