Heroic Radio: A Study of Radio Responses in the Immediate Aftermath of the September 2010 Earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand


  • Ruth Zanker New Zealand Broadcasting School of CPIT




This case study examines radio’s performance in the immediate hour after the 7.1 Richter scale earthquake struck Christchurch, the largest city in the South Island of New Zealand, at 4.35am on September 4th 2010. It contributes to a growing body of work analysing media responses to sudden catastrophic events like floods, bushfires, tsunamis and earthquakes and it refocuses attention on the critical role played by the ‘legacy’ medium of radio at a time when the popular media is focused on the value of social media in crises. Media commentary, interviews and transcripts of broadcasts are used to explore how radio performed in the hour of darkness immediately after the first quake and before a civil emergency was declared. The study compares the performance of two national talk back networks and Radio New Zealand National, a public service network. It explores the relationship between local informants and national media centres hungry for on the ground information. It concludes with a discussion of the role of radio in this and future crises.