50-Year Study: Where Were You During These Most Memorable Moments In TV History?

A study released Wednesday shows major news events are the most remembered broadcasts in television's recent 50-year history.

Where were you Sept. 11, 2001? Do you clearly remember the day?

The 9/11 terrorist attack is by far the most memorable moment shared by television viewers during the past 50 years, according to a study released Wednesday.

Sony Electronics and the Nielsen television research company collaborated on the study that ranked TV moments for their impact not just by asking people if they remembered watching them, but if they recalled where they watched it, who they were with and whether they talked to other people about what they had seen.

“The Sept. 11 tragedy was nearly twice as impactful as the second-ranked moment, which was the coverage of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Minutes after the first airplane struck New York's World Trade Center on a late summer morning, television networks began covering the events continuously and stayed with them for days,” The Associated Press reported today on the study.

“The other biggest TV events, in order, were the 1995 verdict in O.J. Simpson's murder trial, the Challenger space shuttle explosion in 1986 and the death of Osama bin Laden last year,” The Associated Press reported.

President John F. Kennedy's assassination and its aftermath in 1963 was a close second to the 9/11 tragedy in terms of impact, but only for people aged 55 and over who experienced the events as they happened. Younger generations don’t rank the assassination and the events that followed nearly as high as those who remember the grainy broadcasts. The assassination, President Nixon's resignation and the country’s first moon landing didn't register at all among viewers 18 to 34, yet the death of Osama bin Laden and Barack Obama's Election Night speech in 2008 were ranked No. 2 and No. 3, respectively for the younger generation.

Brian Siegel, vice president of television business for Sony, told The Associated Press that his company was interested in the study for clues on consumer interests and behaviors and found "that television is really the grandmother of all the social devices.”

“Going into the study, Siegel said he had anticipated that entertainment events like the final episode of ‘M-A-S-H’ (ranked No. 42), the Beatles' appearance on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’ (No. 43) and the ‘Who Shot J.R.?’ episode of ‘Dallas’ (No. 44) would rank higher. Instead, television coverage of news events made the biggest difference in viewers' lives,” The Associated Press reported.

The Super Bowl is annually the most-watched TV event, but the memories don't linger, unless it was Janet Jackson's 2004 wardrobe malfunction (No. 26).

The sexes don’t always agree on what constitutes memorable.

“Women ranked the 1997 funeral of Princess Diana as the fourth most memorable event, while men put that at No. 23. Women ranked last year's death of Whitney Houston at No. 5, with men judging it No. 21,” The Associated Press reported. “The 2003 bombing of Baghdad at the start of the Iraq War was seen as the No. 14 most impactful moment by men, and No. 37 among women. Men were also far more struck by boxer Mike Tyson biting off a piece of Evander Holyfield's ear.”

The study was based on an online questionnaire of 1,077 adults selected as a scientific sample from among Nielsen's panel of people measured for television ratings. It was conducted between Feb. 15-17 this year, according to The Associated Press.


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