In times of a local disaster/event, one turns to local radio for up to date coverage, information, news, and stories of local experience. When the disaster is away from your own hometown, audiences turn to television for coverage. But, what do audiences do when TV isn’t an option?

On Friday afternoon when the earthquake hit, I was meeting some friends for dinner and drinks in the city. I was kept up to date on the earthquake news through periodically checking my Twitter feed and streaming Al Jazeera live on my iPhone. Later that night when I got home, I found SBS were broadcasting a live feed from CNN.

TV Tonight provided a wrap of the coverage:

Conventional Aussie news bulletins struggled to keep up with the disaster, resorting to their usual stories while ABC News 24 upstaged them. Both Today Tonight and A Current Affair included some live crosses before Nine News rushed a special bulletin to air at 7pm with Georgie Gardner and Peter Harvey hosting the NHK content. 6PM with George Negus, fronted by Hamish McDonald, showed the wave live before switching to regular stories. 7:30, which was due to host its first local editions, included a national segment on the disaster from Chris Uhlmann. TEN had a special late bulletin at 10:30pm. SBS also showed some of the NHK footage.

Finding live coverage over the weekend, however, was not an easy task. ABC News 24 dropped the live NHK feed, opting instead for scheduled repurposed content from throughout the week. The commercial channels also offered very little. It was good to see that Nine offered an ACA special last night, but is that enough?

The events from Japan over the weekend were not a local story, but it’s one involving a devestating earthquake, a tsunami, and potential nuclear meltdown. It’s a major news story that should be of global interest. Considering the recent floods, cyclones, and earthquakes that we’ve experienced in our part of the world in recent weeks, one would assume that Australia’s level of interest in what has taken place in Japan would be heightened. Yet, the scale of coverage just hasn’t been there on FTA stations in Australia.

A CNN or NHK feed on a digital multichannel would have been highly welcome. Instead, unless one had access to CNN on Foxtel or can access the Al Jazeera, viewers were lost.