Broadcasting – Not Social Networks – The Key Communication Medium In Emergencies: ITU Report

The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) held a Workshop last week on Emergency Broadcasting, to highlight the importance of international cooperation needed to enhance the reach of broadcasting in emergency situations, such as in the Philippines, which was recently devastated by Typhoon Haiyan and the cyclones that have battered the coastal districts of eastern India.

A new ITU Report on Emergency Broadcasting on the essential role of terrestrial radio and television broadcasting will be finalized by April 2014 and made available online free of charge. The Report will be compiled by co-Rapporteurs to Study Group 6, Lynn Claudy (National Association of Broadcasters, USA) and Gary Stanley (Babcock International Group, U.K.).

“Emergency broadcasting plays a critical role in the rapid dissemination of information to the public, and is a key element in helping save lives in the aftermath of natural disasters,” says ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun I. Touré. “The ITU Report on Emergency Broadcasting will provide broadcasters, first responders and the general public important information on how to prepare for natural disasters and their aftermath.”

The strong ITU emphasis on traditional information dissemination modalities likely won’t set well with with those who advocate social media as the avant garde solution to everything, but the Twitterverse has far less comprehensive reach than old school media, and its thoroughgoing devotees who complain about disaster information agencies focusing primarily on radio and T.V. rather than, say, Twitter are an example of what internet activist Eli Pariser dubbed a “filter bubble” ( – a high-tech ghetto that tends to shield some social networking aficionados from cognizance of the real world. Twitter may be the nexus of their universe, but it doesn’t even register in the worlds of many people, including a large proportion of those who have computer and/or cellphone access.

The ITU notes that for many decades, radio and television broadcasters have been the primary source of critical information to the public in the event of disasters such as tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, snowstorms, earthquakes, tsunamis, and even terrorist attacks and industrial catastrophes. Due to their wide coverage, broadcasting services are more likely to survive such events than other communication networks.

Radio and television broadcasting provides reliable point-to-multipoint delivery of essential information and safety advice to the public as well as to first responders and others via widely available consumer receivers, both mobile and fixed. Even in cases where electricity and mobile-phone base stations are no longer available, reception of broadcast signals is still possible with battery-operated receivers in cars and in hand-held devices such as mobile phones equipped with a radio or TV receiver.

“The Workshop addressed key issues related to broadcasting as a means of communicating to the public during emergencies and how it fulfils these requirements most reliably and effectively,” says Mr. François Rancy, Director of ITU’s Radiocommunication Bureau.

“With the number of natural disasters and other large-scale emergency situations on the rise around the world, as we have seen with the devastation caused by the recent Typhoon Haiyan, it is absolutely essential that the public is provided the necessary emergency information quickly, comprehensively and accurately,” comments Christoph Dosch, Chairman of ITU-R Study Group 6 (Broadcasting service). “Terrestrial television and radio broadcasters provide the fastest, reliable and most effective means of delivering information to the public in these critical situations.”

A Video interview is available on ITU’s YouTube channel:

For more information, see:

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