Sunday, March 27, 2011


by Philip J Cunningham

When the biggest earthquake in memory hit Japan at 2:46 PM on the afternoon of March 11, 2011, it took less than ten minutes for the bright, cluttered screens of Tokyo top six stations to be drained of color, commercialism and fun. With a disaster unfolding, TV stations were under intense pressure to change the tone of their broadcasts and offer news and safety advice.

To review broadcasts from that afternoon, is to be transported back to a turning point in which everything suddenly changed. The state of TV, as it existed at that precarious moment, good, bad and banal as it might have been, is now a broadcast relic, the last gasp of normalcy before the earth shook Japan to its core, the sea swept the Northeast with tsunamis and a nuclear crisis broke the easy access to electric power that has been a hallmark of modernity in Japan for decades.

For an illustration about how the 3.11 quake is changing life in Tokyo, with particularly focus on the airwaves and the energy-guzzling lifestyle promoted on TV, please view my latest piece at