7.1 Earthquake in Christchurch - TV coverage

We woke up at 6:45am to news of a 7.4 earthquake in Christchurch which occurred at 4:45am and immediately turned on the TV to see the news but couldn’t find anything on TV ONE, TV3 or TVNZ 7.  Heard the news being covered on National Radio (they were playing Good Vibrations, heh) but am awaiting to see what is on the networks at 7am. 

7:00am – 7:06am

3 photos of damage in one street shown on TV ONE/TVNZ7, with details of flooding, power outage, no fatalities or injuries and a live phone cross to Vicki Wilkinson-Baker.  Director of civil defence by phone. 

Back to regular programming. Nothing on TV3.

7:07am – 7:10am

Report on BBC news, live phone interview with resident Marg McCone, third bad aftershock occurs. 

7:12am – 7:15am

CNN’s top story: NZ quake. Interview with NZ Civil Defense Ministry by phone.

7:30am – 7:39am

 TV3: 3 News special bulletin – Mike McRoberts in studio, video coverage and live cross to Hamish Clark in front of the theatre building broken. No serious injuries reported. Reports of trapped people in multi-story buildings.  Lots of photos of damaged buildings and damages inside.  Phone outages.

ONE News: regular programming (Breakfast repeats).

TV3 saying next update at 11am.

7:36am – 7:43am

TV ONE/TVNZ7 special news bulletin saying “first moving pictures” (not true if they’re talking about broadcast video, was on TV3 first). Live cross to Hannah Ockleford inside a tidy office in Christchurch.  Some weird audio overlays. Live video interview with head of civil defense from either the Beehive or Christchurch (told both?). 

7:46am – 7:51am

Sky News: phone interviews and some photos via TVNZ. 

8:00am – 8:05am

TV3: Special news bulletin with Adam Ray in studio with live cross to Rebecca Wright outside Beehive, new photos, video.  Recorded interview with head of civil defense. Hehe at the mouse pointer on the photos.

8:00am – 8:08am

TV ONE: Special news bulletin with Rawdon Christie in studio.  Live cross to Hannah Ockelford (still in the tidy studio).  Video and photos.  No reports of major injuries.  Repeat of civil defense interview. 

8:13am – 9:20am

TV ONE: Another update, with live cross again to Hannah Ockelford inside the office.  Another aftershock (the people in the background look normal and are sitting by glass windows though).

Quite a few interviews with people on the streets talking about the earthquake. Repeat of civil defense interview. More photos, included cracked streets.  Reports from Christchurch hospital of two major injuries to men injured by a falling chimney and glass. 

TV ONE now feels like you’re watching CNN, with advice to people about where to get medical help etc. Civil defense says to stay off cellphones as the towers only have another hour of power left. (Later revised to 3-8 hours)

Mark Crysell in studio talked to earthquake experts, says massive shifting of NZ/Australian plates.  Another live cross to Hannah and one to Catherine Wedd in the bunker at the Beehive where politicians are arriving. 

CBD to be closed off due to risks to people. 

Live interview with head of civil defense and then civil defense minister John Carter. Live interview with geologist Mark Quigley inside TVNZ studios in Christchurch. Live interview with Inspector Al Steward, Christchurch police.

Very impressed with TVNZ coverage now, even though it was a slow start.

A breakfast ticker is going across the bottom of the screen with just one headline: “Earthquake 7.4 on richter scale”.  This is later updated with more headlines.  

Live cross to Joy Reid on the streets.  Someone rescued from their car in a hole in a road. 

TV ONE continues its coverage right through the morning.  It’s not 12:20pm and no sign of switching back to regular programming. 



8:28am – 8:32am

TV3: News update with quite a lot of new video of damage, water flooding onto streets.  Mayor says to stay off streets.  Live cross to Hamish Clark outside damaged theatre again.  No serious injuries reported.  Interviews with people on the street. 

Back to regular programming (infomercials). 

9:07am – 9:12am

TV3 reports on the two seriously injured men.  Live cross to Hamish Clark outside the collapsed theatre again saying a cement-like compound is coming up through the roads.  Head of civil defense interview (not live).  State of civil emergency expected in next hour.  Mentions the tweets about battery life of cellphone towers (which originated from TVNZ info).  Thanking people for using iphone app to send in photos.   

Back to regular programming (infomercials).




Tweets of interest (generally from 7am – 8am):

“Isn’t TVNZ7 supposed to be a dedicated news channel? Earthquake in Christchurch, TVNZ!” – southernsquall

the ****? Just woke up to news of a major quake in Christchurch, and TV
and Radio don’t seem to care. Twitter FTW.” – nzben

“amazing how the speaker on french national tv pronounced “Christchurch, NZ” 🙁 #quake” – glazou

“Are there any streams of local/national tv stations? #earthquake #Christchurch” – HaroldinhoNL

been dismal- v notably absent; having to turn to CNN & Twitter for
our news! Thought there would hv been a plan for these events.” –

“Too early to start the day disappointed with TV
reporting of Christchurch earthquake. Gladly give TVNZ funding to
RadioNZ” – southernsquall

“Why are neither of our main tv networks giving us live coverage of the earthquake in christchurch?” – AndrewWhiteside

“If God intended any TV coverage of this Christchurch earthquake he should’ve scheduled it for AK & a couple of hours later” – NittyNattyNoo

“What we’ve seen so far. Christchurch is made of bricks and TV news is made of marshmallow.” – David Slack

“Um, what’s the point of TVNZ7?” – nztv

“Biggest damage story so far? TVNZ’s reputation” – philquin

“Why isn’t there even a news ticker for people looking for information?” – nztv

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About the author

Co-founder of Throng. Favourite TV shows recently: Homeland and The Newsroom.
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  • bobscoffee

    You beat me to it Rachel. Absolutely woeful on TV. TV3 continues to play children’s shows, Maori TV is shut down and high school students’ career choices on Breakfast on TV ONE. Do they just not care anymore, or do reporters just not work in the weekends?

    I thought TVNZ are required to provide some sort of civil defence service as well. I suppose they don’t really care anymore when power is down in Christchurch.

    Has TVNZ ever had TVNZ news played simultaneously on both 7 and ONE before though? A sign of things to come?

  • Garh

    Awoke about 615am and checked my cellphone and had a txt alert from CNN saying of breaking news of an Earthquake in Christhcurch New Zealand. I was pretty shocked to say the least as one it was New Zealand but as well the city I had lived in for most of my life. I then turned on TV to see that CNN International were covering it at the time. Other networks were very slow to show coverage. Newstalk ZB as well as Radio Live were the next stop – there coverage has been amazing and a note that Newstalk ZB has brought in Larry Williams who hosts the late afternoon Drive show 4-7pm. I think he cam on air after 7am. Sky News Australia/NZ as well has had amazing coverage with live reports via phone from it’s reporter Richard. Very dispointing that TVNZ and TV3 were one late off the ball but are only doing bulletins of 5 or 10 minutes on the hour and half hour. Gosh this is a pretty major NEWS story for New Zealand. Even the likes of Fox News are covering this even though it was a brief report.  

  • peoplepower

    got news from telstra clear twitter page they posted updates and other people pictures as it happenned

  • Prime TV

    Prime News has also been providing full coverage this morning.

  • Rachel

    Thanks, good to know – although each time I turned over to PRIME I didn’t see anything. 

  • Rachel
  • reece_555

    TVNZ have come through in the end and the coverage has been fantastic and continuous. TV3, be embarrassed with your preference of infomercials, magnum pi and a repeat of a low rating movie show no wonder people dont watch your bulletins. Prime had shown a feed of Sky News for a while but switched back to infomercials by 11AM not the full coverage that comment claimed.

  • Rachel

    TVNZ’s coverage has been excellent, once they got going.

    Rawdon Christie is excellent – I hope he gets lots of recognition for his work today.

  • 333

    I am a prophet of the bible. Here is wisdom.

    Have an ear. the hour is here

    Like a thief in the night.

    The number is perfect, the signature of God.

    I was born 75 years to the day after

    Earthquake No. 333 caused by Nikola Tesla

    Or I would not have been told

    My Social Security Number # is Six Hundred and Sixty-Six

    My Federal E.I.N. ends 666

    I have counted the number of the beast.

    With insight I have calculated the number of his name


    Sept. 3, 1899 3:03 pm 3h 03m 27s – 3h 03m 28s

  • Rachel


  • Flip

    TV vs Twitter huh? Useless TV news always behind the public with news, what good are they?

    Of course twitter is also all over the 3 dead in a plane crash on Fox Glacier, oh wait, twitter’s not.

    Looks like TV news isn’t always so slow and useless then.

  • Timmy

    So One News has clearly thrashed 3 today – the coverage has been amazing with quick helicopter footage and especially having Donna out at Whenuapai so they can get live comment from John Key! I also noticed that they had news of the plane crash first as well. Before anyone asks, i don’t work at TVNZ – i have always just felt that they are better and a more powerful news source than tv3….today has proved how good they can be as a team (when they actually try!)

  • Hey guys,

    TVNZ 7 was the first television station to cover this with regular bulletins about the quake from 6am.  I think we (TVNZ) did well considering how difficult it is to crank up a full television station and put it live in the early hours of a Saturday morning when there’s usually only a couple of people in the newsroom, presentation and a security guard in the place normally at that time.

    We rallied an entire studio crew including lighting, sound, camera crews, director, vision switcher, producers, field satellite technicians, cameramen, reporters, an anchor and everyone else you need to put TV live to air and sustain decent coverage by 8am from nothing.

    If it had have happened anytime between 6am and 11pm Monday – Friday we would have done it a lot faster but we don’t have a studio crew in Auckland on a Saturday until around midday normally so we had to wake all these dudes and drag them in from all over Auckland as well as sorting out SNG equipment, crews and reporters to locations in Christchurch in the middle of the chaos.

    TV takes a lot more to crank up than radio and personally I think we did bloody well.





  • From the Mainland

    It’s worth noting that most of us in Christchurch didn’t have power after the earthquake, so coverage on TV wasn’t a lot of use to locals. Turned on the radio straight away – Radio NZ National, Newstalk ZB and Radio Live were all really quick off the mark – and at the end of the day that’s what really matters, because that’s who we were turning to for information at the time.

  • Rachel

    Timmy – to be accurate, 3 News had comment from John Key before he got in the car to go out to Whenuapai airbase.

  • reece_555

    Andi, yourself and the team have done and continue to do bloody well as you pointed out its saturday and nothing studio based comes out on a saturday morning. Rawdon was fantastic and Mirama has been just as good if not better, TVNZ really has thrashd 3News. What has radio been like in Canterbury particually network music brands are there local break outs or just what the rest of us have been getting.

  • Freddy

    TRN ran Newstalk ZB on all its Christchurch stations this morning.  More FM in Christchurch had Simon Barnett on all morning doing a special show.

  • From the Mainland

    Flicked through the radio stations at one point later in the morning – all of the Radio Network stations had the ZB coverage live (that was Radio Sport, ZM Classic Hits and Hauraki). Bit odd to tune in to ZM to hear Paul Holmes and Mike Yardley discussing earthquakes!

    The Mediaworks stationswere generally sticking to normal schedules, although Simon Barnett seemed to be live on More FM.

    Given that it was a Saturday morning and everyone (including news teams) were asleep, and to get to into town people had to find their way through a powerless and damaged city (not to mention that a first priority for most people would have been checking for damage at their own homes, and that family members were ok) I think that the media have actually provided awesome coverage today.

  • Rachel

    Kudos to Rawdon Christie & Joy Reid, excellent work today.

    Simon Dallow now in Christchurch; I felt he was overly dramatic though and missed the Chch reporters.

  • Adam

    So who is suppose to pay for the continuous news coverage that everyone wants on here?

    TV3 and even TV One are commercial channels that get their funding from commericals including infomercials. 

    TVNZ 7 is funded by the taxpayer so should be able to provide continuous coverage but didn’t.

    TVOne just repeated their coverage over and over again but as the state channel did what was needed to keep everyone informed. TV3 kept it simple but still updated us and had decent coverage in their 1 hour special at 11am.

    The reporters should be out in the field finding stories not just providing continous live crosses.

  • Benjamin Paul

    TVNZ has been very impressive. Well done. Switched from Rawdon Christie to TV3 and it was a Zoomba informercial. 

  • reece_555

    Well Tv One still managed some commercial time, but I assume many of the people in the news teams arent paid hourly so the only cost is time? (correct me if im wrong). Thats the possibility of TV news Breaking Stories and being able to provide as much as possible. TV3 may have had a special at 11 but that was a live NZ on air funded show going to air anyway. But a huge well done to the TVNZ news team.

  • regan

    @adam who pays for it if they don’t cover events like this? There is reputation at stake when it comes to who is most trusted to turn to when you need vital information.  It’s not like this happens every week.  In fact, as far as I can recall, the last time there was rolling coverage like this for September 11.

  • Grabate

    The Earthquake knocked out the power where I was for most of the day so I listened to RadioLive on my MP3 player to hear what was going on.  They were really good with up to the minute news although some Christchurch ads felt out of place considering the circumstances.

  • Adam

    Good point Reece about NZonAir funding The Nation.

    If TV3 still had a morning show then I presume they would of had more coverage by calling that crew in. There is another Nation special tomorrow, I don’t think NZonAir are funding an extra show though.

  • Timmy

    Thanks Rachel – my bad.

    Prime also had quite good coverage tonight as well (considering the size of their news team)



  • jon1

    did the same thing, very disappointing that Zumba is a priority over this event.

  • cameragod

    Lives, depending on how they are done can be very expensive. Satellites and Fiber cables are charged at a $ per 10min rate that would make your eyes water with an extra rate for less than an hour notice and for each live and they would have been up all day.

    Crew were called in from their days off and flown from all over the country with extra cameras and satellite kit.
    The cost for coverage from CHCH will eat a massive hole in the yearly news budgets.

    I know some armchair viewers feel TVNZ should have been rolling live earlier but it is a massive call and once made I think they showed just what a world class news operation we have in New Zealand.