Most of the channels on the (state controlled) CCTV are running the normal game shows, Olympic warmups (especially torch-relay updates), teen music shows, etc. But the CCTV-1 news channel is having all-out coverage of the earthquake in Sichuan province. Brief cultural notes:

- The coverage included a long segment of premier Wen Jiabao reading a speech about his deep concern for the people of Sichuan, from aboard an airplane en route to the disaster scene. Background: after the country was paralyzed by unexpected snow storms in February, the leadership was criticized for a Katrina-like slowness in dealing with the problem. Prominent coverage now of the main officials responding immediately to this disaster.

- News channels from Taiwan, which we are watching in alternation with the mainland coverage on CCTV, have extensive video footage from Chengdu, estimates of casualties, etc. So far no on-scene video footage that I've seen on CCTV-1, and no casualty figures. (The state news agency, Xinhua, is saying that 7600 people, or more, may have died.) Channel-surfing, we see that the German, Japanese, and Korean networks are also running Chengdu footage. It could have been on CCTV when I wasn't watching, but it's certainly not featured. CCTV is mainly running telephone interviews with correspondents in Sichuan and talking-head analyses in the studio. Possible background: controlling coverage within China until being sure exactly how the story should be presented. (Update: just saw a 20-second video clip from Chengdu on CCTV.)

- To help place this disaster: it is in almost exactly the same area I described in this article about the Wolong Panda Reserve, northwest of Chengdu, and this slide show about the reserve. A long, twisty road from Chengdu to Wolong, which had been undergoing years of reconstruction, passes right through the earthquake area. I assume it could be a long time before it is restored to even its perilous previous condition.

Good luck to all in Sichuan, including Dr. Tang Chunxiang and his colleagues in Wolong.

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