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Wednesday, 12 September, 2001, 12:26 GMT 13:26 UK
Millions watch attacks on live TV
World Trade Center
Coverage of the attack was continuous on many channels
The terrorist attacks on New York and Washington on Tuesday are set to go down as one of the most momentous events in the history of live TV.

As the tragedy unfolded, TV stations around the world spun into action.

Most dropped all scheduled programming to devote their airtime to following the unfolding of the tragedy, many for more than 10 hours.

And millions of people tuned in to watch the coverage - and stay with it - at times in the day when most would normally have been doing something else.


It shows just how great an appetite there is for news reporting for an event of this scale

BBC spokesman

In the UK and the US, there was virtual continuous live reporting on up to 10 channels, from the time the first terrorist plane hit New York's World Trade Center.

On UK terrestrial TV alone, BBC One, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 all cancelled listed programmes from just after 1400 BST.

And, in terms of viewing figures, early results indicate that the attack is set to emerge as one of the most watched news stories in TV history.

Richard Sambrook, Director of BBC News, said: "I doubt many of us have ever been confronted with a story of such magnitude.

"Despite the shock and horror we all felt, I was proud of the superb response from our teams who worked round the clock to provide audiences with measured and authoritative coverage."

'Appetite'

The BBC is reporting a record number of viewers for its live News 24 coverage, which was shown on BBC One from 1400 until 1800 BST.

At its peak, 7.6 million people were watching the coverage on BBC One.

jill dando
Reports on Jill Dando's murder drew a comparable number of viewers

This figure rose to 9.4 million, for BBC One's 1800 BST news - highest ratings for since the murder of Jill Dando in 1999.

Coverage was halted for Changing Rooms and EastEnders. It was followed by a special news debate programme on the disaster called America Under Siege, which drew more than 6 million viewers.

The BBC's 10 O'clock News pulled in 5.9 million viewers. And up to 2.4 million were still watching BBC One's reports at midnight.

A spokesman for the BBC said: "It shows just how great an appetite there is for news reporting for an event of this scale."

BBC News Online also attracted a huge audience, recording 2000 hits a second or 7.2 million an hour.

Aftermath

The number of people tuning in to watch ITN's coverage on ITV was yet to be calculated at the time of writing.

In the US, it was the 24-hour news network CNN from Atlanta which was first begin coverage at around 1350 BST.

But struck with the horror of the story, there was non of the "first off the block" triumphalism usual from news networks under similar occasions.

Most of the US news networks were said to have been sharing footage.

And most news networks in the US and the UK are saying they expect to continue blanket coverage of the aftermath of the attacks for some time.

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