9/11: A defining moment in our television history?

It’s hard to believe that TV only became a part of the Australian home lifestyle after 1956. Late to adopt following America post WW2, television became an image of the post-war suburban family lifestyle.  Sonia Livingstone in her 2009 article Half a century of television in the lives of our children explains this in what she calls an ‘accident of history’, television reaching the mass market ‘showed a collective ‘coming together’ of the family around the set, with domestic living space being rearranged to create the ‘family room’. In the early days of television, watching was also a public event – not private, in your own home as we mostly view it now. The television would be watched in community halls, in someone else’s home in the street or through a shop window.

In 2013 the image of television is very different. TV is no longer just a technology, but often a symbol of times past and a signpost of memories tied up with where we were, whom we were with and what was happening during certain events in time. The prevalence of television news media in Australia means that a lot of Australian turn to television for information on the latest events. Big events in our lives are often remembered in relation to memorable TV moments. As a 20 year old I have always had television in the home. Some of the biggest moments in my lifetime I can remember in reference to television. Events such as the Beaconsfield mine disaster, black Saturday bushfire, London bombings, Bali bombings, the 2011 Japan tsunami, Prince William and Kate’s royal wedding, the triumphs of Olympians and of course, 9/11. My views of the events happening around me have been shaped by the coverage that I see on my home television. In a way, the television in the home is our personal window to the world.

Asking people around my age the response to what television event stands out the most for them seems to unanimously be 9/11.  Interestingly, I asked my younger sister who would have only been 4 years old at the time and she, almost instinctively replied 9/11. It wasn’t until I questioned her about it that she realised – she didn’t remember 9/11, the day, more the legacy as it has reported on television afterwards (her response then changed the London bombings. Interestingly, my mum’s response was also 9/11. Despite the fact that her earliest memory of television was sitting in the lounge room in their family home in Wales, UK, and her parents having to put tokens into the back of the television for it to work, her most prominent television moment was also 9/11.  When prompted to name other big events she replied with Princess Diana’s wedding and Princess Diana’s funeral (maybe she’s just a hardcore Di fan?). All in all this had me wondering – has the impact of 9/11 been exacerbated by television in the home? Is the fact that the atrocities of the world now reach so far into our personal lives and spaces; we cannot escape them, a product of television in the home? And if so – is this a bad thing? Or are we becoming more aware of global issues and events because of this? In the future will our memories of events be in real time? Or how/who/when we saw it reported on television?



Livingstone, Sonia (2009) Half a century of television in the lives of our children. The ANNALS of the American academy of political and social science, 625 . pp. 151-163. ISSN 0002-7162


One thought on “9/11: A defining moment in our television history?

  1. This was a really interesting and powerful post! It is inarguable to say that 9/11 was not an important television event for people in our generation. Every person I’ve spoken to around my age have said the same thing. Although, I never thought about whether or not “the impact of 9/11 has been exacerbated by television in the home”- this is a really thought provoking statement and one that I had never previously considered. But I definitely agree that the extensive coverage made the event even more prominent, as there are so many other tragic global issues (especially in undeveloped nations) that are just as devestating that go unnoticed by the media. I think that the 9/11 attacks were just much more of an impact on society because it was in the U.S and because it was so widely reported on in the media. I hope that television and other forms of media also start to report on global events in other countries that weren’t conventionally classified as ‘newsworthy’. And I think this is definitely more apparent as programs such as Channel 10’s “The Truth Is” starts to raise the issues from the Arab Spring and society becomes more aware of these violent situations. I think the media is becoming more ‘globalised’ and because of that, tragic world events are being brought into the public eye- which is a positive thing!
    Fantastic post, well done! 🙂

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