Ed Driscoll

DirecTV Launches Katrina Information Channel

TechWeb reports that DirecTV has adopted channel #100 (which I think normally shows “learn how to control your DirecTV set-top box” sorts of programming) into an information channel on Katrina:

DirecTV Inc. on Friday said it has launched a 24-hour Hurricane Katrina information channel that broadcasts a continuous stream of email messages from family and friends of hurricane victims.

Available on channel 100 of the satellite-TV service, the program also provide information on road closures throughout the Gulf region, which was heaviest hit in Monday’s storm; the location and phone numbers of special needs shelters in Louisiana and shelter openings throughout the Gulf Coast.

In addition, the channel lists counties and parishes in the Gulf region that are able to assist evacuees, insurance company contact information and relief agency contact information, including phone numbers for the Red Cross, Salvation Army and Feed the Children.

DirecTV, a Los Angeles unit of News Corp., will scroll at the bottom of the TV screen text messages from family and friends separated by the hurricane and its aftermath. Emails sent to [email protected] are reviewed by DirecTV staff and then posted on the channel. A text message also can be sent via cellular phone directly to text code “48433.”

Bob Marsocci, spokesman for DirecTV, said the company launched the channel to help address the difficulty victims have had in contacting loved ones. DirecTV has more than 14.6 million subscribers nationwide.

“Watching the news headlines, it became clear that besides the basics of food, shelter and clothing, there was a lack of communications, so we decided to launch a dedicated channel,” Marsocci said. “Communication is of vital importance with 10s of thousands of people out of their homes.”

DirecTV plans to keep the channel up for “as long as necessary,” Marsocci said. The company plans to install its DirecTV in shelters, based on recommendation from federal officials and the Red Cross. Service already has been installed in the Houston Astrodome, which is housing 10s of thousands of victims.

DirecTV isn’t the only company trying to help Katrina victims reach loved ones. Internet service provider Earthlink Inc., based in Atlanta, said Friday it has launched a Web page for people to submit their own names and location, and search the submissions of others.

Meanwhile, the Pajamas Media beta-site has suspended its member profiles for the weekend, and is providing information on Katrina as well.