As I posted episode 1 last week, I keep writing story series of how Japanese people used social networks at the time of disaster. Today’s story will show how mass media used social media to broadcast news at the time of power cut and the network was down.
Soon after disaster came, everything in Tohoku area was shut down, and even people in Tokyo couldn’t watch TV or get newspaper as well as they were unable to use mobile networks. There was also power cut due to all nuclear power plant was closed the accident at the Fukushima nuclear power plant for roughly two month after disaster. So information from mass media was quite restricted.
On the other hand, internet network (including mobile internet) was quite stabilised at that time, therefore gathering information by internet was the most crucial way. I found research data by Twitter Japan and Yahoo! Japan that a number of hit on Twitter and Yahoo! was significantly increased, and especially access from smartphone in central Tokyo area was marked highest hit. Institutions including government, local government and mass media company opened Twitter account soon after disaster, and tweets that it seems important information retweeted a lot. Thus, social networks was undoubtedly crucial tool to gather news, albit Twitter time line was fully filled by huge number of information tweet including both truth and rumour.
SNS were not only crucial tool at that time, but it was also clear that mass media convergence was actively pursued. The most significant example is ‘One Seg’ television on mobile phone. One-Seg is a mobile terrestrial broadcasting service: all television channels (including satellite channels) in Japan are available to watch on mobile phone, handheld game console (PlayStation Portable and Nintendo DS), car navigation system, portable audio players (SONY’s Walkman), and even electronic dictionary. People were able to watch television news on mobile phone even they are not in front of television. Another interesting case is that 13 key territorial television and radio stations (including public service broadcasting, NHK) broadcasted through the online live streaming web service called Ustream. Tomotaka Nakagawa, the CEO of Ustream Asia, explains that,
I found that a junior high school student in Hiroshima (region in western Japan) started to re-broadcast NHK news programme on Ustream by his smartphone just 17 minutes after earthquake happened. It was obviously illegal, yet I also found that many audiences wrote comments that it helps them who could not watch television or gather any information. I immediately sent an e-mail to NHK to request allow illegal broadcasting or start online broadcast officially. NHK sent back an e-mail in 15 minutes that they allow to open official account and broadcast their programme, and then other broadcasters such as JNN, FNN and TVK, also started to broadcast on Ustream in six hours. (translation)
Official twitter account of NHK (@nhk_pr) then tweeted and shared the link of Ustream page to promote people who could not watch television, and number of viewers was recorded over 600 million including approximately 26 per cent users in overseas. Media convergence and providing several outlets was undoubtedly important at the time of emergency due to the fact that the device citizen can use is limited and different depends on each own situations.
This is the story that how mass media used social media to broadcast news and information at the time of disaster. Next episode 3 will be a story of the problems that became a big issue.