Video of 6 main Japanese TV channels, as the quake hits

[Video Link].

Via Time Out Tokyo, which tweets, "This is why we watch NHK."


    This is a live webcam of the plant- refreshed every few seconds. I don’t understand why CNN and the mainstream tv media can’t find this stuff.
    Also- here is a liveblog link from UKGuardian which is continually updated.

    Also- check out Lots of good current info.

  2. Well, you know, the commercials pay the bills and the news dept. is a drain on station finances.

  3. top middle about 36 seconds in: Aflac commercial featuring the duck that gilbert gottfried USED to voice, irony. hopefully Aflac doesn’t renege on it’s insurance in japan, many hurt families will need that support soon.

    1. His MAJOR mistake was not realizing that Aflac gets about 75 percent of it’s business from Japan.

    2. Also, Gilbert Gottfried is (thankfully) unknown in Japan, although the story about his firing (his voice isn’t used for the Japanese Aflac duck) made the news here.

  4. More to the point: This is a montage of the northeastern affiliates of the major networks — the region this quake and tsunami devastated. Residents would get tsunami information from one of these channels. In some areas, the tsunami hit so fast, your life might depend on which channel you were watching at the time. NHK scooped them all by far, the newscaster on the air even as the quake was still happening. Most of the comments rage against the corporate (privately funded) networks who are obviously way behind the curve.

  5. Question: As the national public broadcaster (which means they are responsible for emergency broadcasts), do NHK have access to some kind of special alert system which gave them such a head start?
    I mean… that popup has the epicenter already marked which seems quicker than humanly possible, suggesting it’s an automated system.

    Either way… impressive.

    1. They’re linked to the national alert system, so yes, they have an early start, but some of the other ones could have come up much faster (TV Tokyo is apparently waiting for its commercials to air first).

    2. according to a friend who works for NHK, they are indeed obliged by their charter to broadcast emergency warnings. NHK works hand in hand with emergency agencies to ensure warnings get out asap

  6. I am thinking that it would not have mattered which station one was watching at the time of the quake in the most devastated areas in regards to the timeliness of the tsunami warning via a broadcast. The power was most likely out immediately, TVs strewn about, etc.

  7. Most commercial radio stations in the US aren’t even manned. With cable TV there’s almost no local coverage. Disaster info in the US won’t be delivered until the next day via commercial broadcasters.

  8. I thought this was going to show that they had some kind of great unified alert system – one button hit somewhere turns all the stations to the warning graphic. Turns out it was the exact opposite.

  9. How odd… a couple of the channels appear to show scenes of the quake as it’s happening (including one which appears to be in an empty tv studio set) and then cut to commercials.


  10. It almost seemed like channels 2-4 were playing chicken, and as soon as one of them jumped in full-time, the others immediately followed.

    I loved seeing those commercials though, I need to look into more of those.

  11. Hopefully not to digress too much, but I have a very distinct memory of the ’89 Loma Prieta quake (I was 5).

    We was watching San Francisco 5 o’clock news from our house in Monterey, down the coast about 90 miles. When the quake hit, I saw the studio shake, and the anchors react. A moment later the signal went out and there was a test signal. Another moment and the power went out. Then almost immediately we felt the shaking.

    Only later did I realize that I was watching the quake progress!

  12. at one point of I think it was Saturday I had the tv on which I was listening to but doing stuff, when there was an aftershock, the news reader clearly worried as I was that it was the big after shock we’d been theatened with, stopped reading the news momentarily glanced up at the roof as I was doing and said “oh there’s an after shock in the studio”, it’s hard to describe the feeling, but suddenly it was like being in a film where the tv starts talking directly to you, being connected to what is usually a very passive means of communication, just for that brief few seconds of the aftershock.

  13. That was surprisingly intense, actually. Watching the first minute or two, perfectly ordinary TV, stupid commercials and all… knowing that it’s all going to be shaken to shit in short order…

    Then the last two minutes or so, with 5 (then, finally, 6) announcers going flat-out, the tension and urgency obvious even through the language barrier.

    If anyone happens to know, what was the 6th channel (lower-rightmost) and what the heck was so important that they didn’t interupt it except to (eventually) put an emergency-announcment overlay on it before finally breaking to a studio?

  14. Total video is … what? 8 mins? Time from quake to slowest response involving a talking head is … 6mins? Less, I think, but it’s a bit hard for me to tell.

    Realistically, that’s pretty good. At quarter to 3 in the afternoon I imagine that most bubblegum channels would be on autopilot. It’d take them a while to round up someone to point in front of the camera, a camera to put them in front of, a control box crew, etc.

    Even putting up an < < OMFGWTFBBQ ERFQU@K3!!!1!! >> screen would take a while, since someone with sufficient juice has to get their own shit together, decide to put up the screen, then get everyone else moving when they’d really rather be under their desks.

    The NHK response was astonishing and outstanding, but I don’t know that I’d objectively classify any of the others ‘bad’.


  15. And to be fair. Tsunami and earthquake warnings are also distributed via cell phone towers and through sirens in coastal regions.

  16. It’s five minutes slower. The point of the early warning system is that it’s an EARLY warning. Timeliness matters.

    “Japan’s deployed thousands of sensors that detect fast-moving P waves. When sensors detect a quake, computers calculate its size and then broadcast warnings across the country. Today, that entire process took 8.6 seconds.” – Marketplace

    — do the broadcasters opt out of the EWS or is there a meatbag in the loop there?

    “Quake incoming! Grab the children and the hard hats!” is useful information.

    “Dude, that was totally an earthquake” has a lot less usefulness to it.

    The EWS also messages mobile phones, by the way, so TV isn’t the only medium for the message. But five minutes? C’mon.

  17. I’m thinking that the station
    – that was in the middle of a live broadcast,
    – and would have had at a dozen professionals involved
    – and much of the chain of command in full communication with each other
    – and their fingers over their respective switchboards
    …probably had a few minutes head-start over the stations on midday autoplay and a junior board operator minding the office.

    Still, I found it disconcerting watching the folk fishing happily off a low wharf whilst all the other stations were blinking tsunami warnings.

  18. I was in Aomori when it happened, and by the time I could get the FM radio on my phone up and running (about 10 minutes later) NHK’s FM station already had simultaneous translation on the second audio channel, alternating through at least English, French and Chinese. Maybe it was just a feed straight from their TV channel, but I was very impressed with the level of preparation they must have for just this sort of situation. I’m feeling guilty about not paying my NHK fee now!

  19. Xeni, I’d embed widescreen next time (whenever a video is widescreen). Wastes less page space.

  20. So commercials take precedence over warning people of a life threatening emergency? Don’t they have a Emergency Broadcast System/Emergency Alert System that takes over the TV channels during an emergency? Locally the commercial channels are great about warning people. They will interrupt anything to give tornado warnings. Well, they are slower about that during a commercial. But they leave up a little map in the corner of the screen so you can tell what is happening. But we have a lot of bad weather.

    Those Japanese TV channels didn’t seem to care if their viewers lived or died.

  21. Well obviously they don’t care – a TV channel can’t logically “care” and of course they have market pressures to advertise, this is why we nationalise some essential services – things like power, water, broadcasters etc. This means that they have to work for the public good – essentially we pay to have someone have our interests at heart.

  22. Why aren’t they sending in robots with cameras so they can see what is going on? Why aren’t they bringing in generators to get the cooling system working?

  23. if i may entirely miss the point for a moment, watching the first few minutes of this made me feel the Alliance had entered my brain and put me on the verge of pulling a River Tam.

  24. Given that every single second of advance warning for an earthquake can save lives the delay for the other stations is reprehensible. NHK had their tsunami warning map up before the other stations had even reacted.

    Most people I know in Tokyo had between 10 and 90 seconds of the earthquake which makes the lagging TV coverage that much worse.

    To those who say that “6 minutes isn’t bad” it’s not like they have to make up special “Earthquake ’11!!” graphics for it and inf a groomed news person to put on the air. Having been through a number of (smaller 5.5-6) earthquakes in Tokyo, 6 minutes is the worst response time I’ve ever seen. Usually when there’s a quake I turn on the TV, see half the stations already have graphics up, and the other half has them within 30 seconds. Japan gets a lot of earthquakes and the stations are literally three mouse clicks and a pushbutton away from the coverage that NHK provided. 6 minutes is ridiculous.

    Since NHK’s alert actually beat the earthquake to Tokyo, it probably saved lives. If you aren’t willing to interrupt your broadcast to save lives you should get your license revoked.

  25. I became caught up in listening to six simultaneous streams of unintelligible-to-me but beautiful babble and how the collective sound changed as everyone figured out something serious was going on. It took me to a Ghost in the Shell Kenji Kawaii sorta place… Really surreal to watch that whole thing.

  26. Four minutes plus before any of the other stations actually started getting serious. Is that how long it took for the seismic waves to reach Tokyo, perhaps? Or how long it took the programming directors to get permission to cut over to news from commercial?

    A couple of side notes: One of the commercials in the top center screen was the infamous Aflac duck…

    I’d be interested to see a couple of other comparisons: First a survey of survivors to see which network they watched (if any), to see if the informational delays actually saved lives. Second, a comparable sequencing of the international cable news channels that broadcast in Japan ( for ex.CNN, Al Jazeera and BBC) to see when they kicked in (unless it was even later than the Japanese commercial broadcasters).

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