November 11th 2001 was a day that America will never forget. Estimates by Nielsen Ratings say at least 80 million Americans (about 28% of the US population according to the 2000 US census) watched the evening news that day, while University of Georgia estimates two billion people (or about 7% of the US population at that time) watched the news in real time. According to the Guardian 16 million people (around 27% of the population at that time) in the UK tuned into TV.
When did the stations intrupt their broadcasting to go live to talk about what's happening? WNYW-TV Fox 5 was almost immendiately live, CNN had a live feed on the Twin Towers at 8:49 (barely three minutes after the first plane hit), then the rest of the stations followed suit shortly after. If the tv network didn't have live anchors then they carried a sister station that did (like MTV carried CBS, and ESPN carried ABC).
By the afternoon most stations were either showing news, or suspended broadcasting. Food Network & HGTV both suspended broadcasting in the afternoon that was replaced by the simple music and a message (which at the time were both owned by Scripps Networks Interactive). Luckily, both of these have been captured and put on YouTube. From some of the comments I have read online, both these stations continued to suspend broadcasting until around September 15th, which was also when most TV stations went back to their regular broadcasting.
Some stations continued like normal, E! network, Sci-Fi channel and other similar stations played their normal block of tv (they did edit it slighty to remove any reference to violence). From the various information online, a major of TV stations had news (or carried a sister station), some suspended broadcasting, and kids stations continued to air like normal.
Why did kids stations continue to air like normal? Because the first lady of the US at the time said " don't let your children see these pictures over and over. Try to protect your children from these pictures of destruction, especially your young children but even elementary school age children shouldn't watch this all the time. It — I think it's too frightening for them, and so I hope parents will turn off the television and think of something constructive to do with their children ."(source) They did of course not play anything related to violence or bomb-related.
How long did these news stations have 24-hour coverage? Most reports say it was close to four days straight of coverage, and none of these news stations aired commericals during that time. This was so that everyone who was watching knew what was going on, although some tv stations did say things which turned out to be false during that time but that is the nature of being always live.
To be clear, none of the tv stations were required to do any of this. Stations also freely shared coverage with each other. They just did because they felt it was the right thing for them to do at that time.
Dish TV Channels During Morning of 9/11 Attacks
September 11th Seen from Space | Space Week Live | Channel 4
Eyewitness News at 11:00 p.m. on September 11, 2001 | ABC7NY
November 12th and 13th in NYC
9/11 as it happened… on NYC local TV
9-11 Synced broadcast of major networks combined
Today Show 9-11-01 – Live on NBC as Tragedy Occurred
The Early Show 9-11-01 – Live on CBS as Tragedy Occurred
September 11, 2001 – Surfing DirecTV channels during 9/11
CBC 9-11-2001 News Coverage
BBC (09:16am-11:21am) – September 11th 2001
In January 2021 I’m trying an experiment, I’m going to be posting at least 2 blog posts per week. This is not only to see how the engagement is, but how my writing goes over during the time. As always you can contact me directly if you have any thoughts or opinions on this or what I’ve written on. This is post number 54 as part of 100 Days To Offload.