Breaking news that preempts all the networks.

Today I read a British TV forum that was discussing whether all the broadcasting networks in the UK will preempt programming when Elizabeth II passes away. That reminded me of all the breaking news in the US that preempted all the “Big Four” networks:
–9/11 coverage (when did they go back to regular programming?)
–Death of Pope John Paul II (I remember this taking up most of the Saturday daytime he died. Did the networks preempt Friday too for the “death watch”, or did I misremember this?)
–both Space Shuttle explosions
–Funeral of President Reagan
What else can you remember, in the US or elsewhere, that preempted all the broadcast networks? For how long? And has there ever been a breaking news event that preempted cable channels and independent stations as well?

The coverage of 9/11 was pretty much on all the cable channels (and, presumably, the independent channels as well). I think MTV rebroadcast the coverage from one of the networks or perhaps CNN. My mother said that she ended up watching the Game Show Network just to get away from the wall-to-wall coverage.

I know on Septemeber 11, 2001, Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network and TNT continue on with their regular schedules. I still recall “White Heat” was on TNT. I recall switching thru the cable channels to see if any had regular shows on. Even Home Shopping Network switched over to a Canadian news source.

Generally whoever owns the network carried the coverage. Like ESPN was from ABC, Viacom cable channels to CBS etc.

I recall the assasination attempt of Reagan, the assasination attempt of Pope John Paul II and the assasination of Sadat and Indira Gandhi were both covered by for a long time by the main network stations in Chicago.

The hijaking of the ocean liner in the 80s. the Achille Lauro was another one as well as when a Jet lost it’s wheels and had to land in Sioux City, IA and everyone was so sure no one would survive but over 100 people did. It was covered on all the networks and a lot of channels as everyone knew the plane would, for lack of a better word, crash as it landed.

I seem to recall Watergate was all over every channel, the hearings and when Nixon Resigned that was another big thing covered.

The death of Princess Diana.

I can also remember it happening when Elvis died.

And Michael Jackson.

That was Newsworld International. Most programming was from the CBC, with the occasion British, German, or Japanese show. I miss that channel. Pretty much every channel either switched over to news or just went off the air. The only exceptions I remember were children’s channels (like Disney or Nick) and premium cable like HBO. Among other things it was a reminder of how many TV channels are owned by the same, few, media companies. IIRC broadcast TV took over 3 days to return to before it even started to return to normal. They weren’t even airing commercials.

As for Her Majesty, I wonder what the British media landscape will even look like when she dies. Given her family history she well live another 20 years.

Oh, god yes. For like two weeks it was wall-to-wall Michael Jackson. My wife and I were traveling overseas, and it seemed like it was the only thing we saw from major US news for at 7-9 days. We started joking along the lines of SNL’s Francisco Franco coverage - “Holy crap, is Michael Jackson still dead?”

To the OP: the invasion of Afghanistan after 9-11, and the initial stages of the first Gulf War.

Also the Clarence Thomas / Anita Hill hearings

Just recently, I think all of the big three broke in to programming with short updates when Hosni Mubarak resigned and when Gabrielle Giffords was shot (and believed to be dead). (IME Fox is less likely than the other networks to interrupt for spontaneous events. I’d guess that it’s because the network itself doesn’t have much of a news bureau, so anything it does usually has to be outsourced (insourced?) to Fox News Channel.)

Princess Di’s death was a big one.

OJ driving down the highway in his white bronco. Also the results of his trial.

Here in Canada, Pierre Trudeau’s death and his subsequent funeral (with heart-wrenching speeches from his sons) took over all the network and front pages of the newpapers for several days.

The Loma Prieta and Northridge earthquakes were on all three networks for the first few hours.

Also, in L.A., freeway chases, if they’re in the afternoon or after prime time, are usually on all the local stations.

I know the aftermath of Challenger was on all the networks, but I don’t know how many had been broadcasting the launch.

I hate that breaking in. I always think, OK, here’s the announcement of The Big One - WWIII breaks out, giant meteor heading for earth, Washington DC nuked, Obama shot dead by Glenn Beck…

Before the current level of cable news and internet news availability it was done more often. Off hand, I recall JFK assasination, Gulf of Tonquin announcement, several Watergate events, Apollo 11 and 13 missions, Three Mile Island, for just the major events. Add to that some girl getting pulled out of a well would be one of many minor ones.

I remember watching the NBA finals on NBC(or whatever network it was that year) and they had a little window in the lower corner showing OJ’s SUV. They did not stop showing the finals for it.

They interrupted ER during the heydays of “Must See TV Thursdays” for Frank Sinatra’s death. They later apologized after hundreds of angry complaints.

The assasination of John F. Kennedy was the first big, drop everything breaking news story network TV could cover wall to wall. It happened on a Friday afternoon, and by Saturday the networks had worked out pool arrangements so there would be camera crews available everywhere.

The aftermath of the Robert Kennedy assasination (the actual shooting was in the middle of the night. The networks had signed off, and had to scramble to get back on the air.)

The death and funeral of Lyndon Johnson, which happened almost simultaneously with the signing of the Paris Peace Accords for the Vietnam War.

Apollo XIII crisis.

Resignation of Richard Nixon.

Assasination of Anwar Sadat.

Shooting of Ronald Reagan.

The beginning of Operation Desert Storm in 1991.

There have been a lot of other things, like extended election coverage and various disasters where all the networks interrupted programming more or less at the same time, but didn’t stay with the story for very long.

One notable flub on breaking news was the impeachment of President Clinton. CBS and Fox were supposed to be showing NFL playoff games at the very moment the House of Representatives was voting on the impeachment. Fox dumped the football coverage to show the impeachment (along with ABC, NBC, PBS, CSPN and the usual cable channels.) CBS stayed with football, with brief news updates.

I remember when the Queen Mother passed away that one of the newsreaders on the BBC got flak for not wearing a black tie when on the air. I did a web search to confirm this memory and found this article that confirms that it was Peter Sissons and that he wore a burgundy tie (instead of the expected black tie). In the article, he goes on to describe the preparations for such an event. As soon as he was hired as a newsreader, an appropriate suit was tailored for him and put in storage for use in the event of the death of what he describes as a “Category A” royal. He mentions that all BBC channels would be preempted for the story and that they rehearsed how they’d report a royal death about twice a year. I wonder if the commercial American networks prepare so formally?

Don’t know about that, but I did read in TV Guide about 30 years ago that all the networks keep prepackaged news profiles of heads of state/major politicians/iconic entertainers, even if there is little indication they will die soon. That way when that person dies, they can easily put together memorial stories with little effort. The article mentioned that the death of Pope John Paul I (he died one month after becoming Pope in 1978) caught many news programs off guard because they hadn’t finished his profile.

A few years ago, CNN accidentally released partially completed obituaries for some major figures who had yet to pass on.

A friend of mine was working in network news when Ronald Reagan died. She said that all the networks had extremely detailed plans on the “instant” specials they had prepared, had satellite coverage and pool responsibilities for the funeral already planned. They also periodically rehearsed disasters (“all staff, this is a drill. Bomb explosion in downtown Los Angeles. Bureau, notify New York when ready to go live. Washington, White House reaction, Homeland Security reaction.”)