Watching CCTV

CCTV stands for "China Central Television" and it is the mother-ship of all broadcast media in this country.  It is under the direct control of the central government (read Party), and it's overall mission is to produce and broadcast programming that inspires loyalty to the party and state.  It is the mouthpiece of the leadership.  There are 12 different CCTV stations that have different emphases.  CCTV 1 is the heavy political one — the one that sets the tone for all the others.  Channel 2 is more family-oriented entertainment.  Channel 4 is the international station — that projects a happy and harmonious image of China to the world.  Channel 5 is all sports.  Channel 7 is all about the military.  Channel 9 is the English channel.  In addition to CCTV, each province has their own stations, as do most big cities, all directly controlled by their respective governments.

Channel 5 has become the official Olympics channel during the games, and channels 2 and 3 have also been drafted into covering the games.  What this means is that during the day and evening hours, events are being broadcast live on each of these stations.  It's wall to wall to wall coverage.

The good news about all this is that, if I'm home, there's no shortage of live events to watch.  There are 2 great advantages of watching the Olympics via CCTV.  The first is that there are no commercial breaks.  The second is that they pretty much stick to covering the events, without all the schmaltzy "up close and personal" stuff that NBC does.  If you want to watch the basketball game, you get to watch the basketball game. 

Unless, of course, China isn't playing, which brings me to the downside of watching the games via CCTV. Any event that a Chinese athlete or team is competing in takes automatic precedence over ones that they aren't in, even if said competition has not completed.  I was watching a nail-biting mens' volleyball game (my favorite) the other night between the US and….someone…It was down to the last game and the score was close.  I was really getting into it, sitting on my couch chanting USA USA and waving my flag, when suddenly the announcer came on and said that the women's weightlifting competition was beginning so the broadcast of the volleyball game was ending.  Poof!!  It was gone, and off we went to the other venue.  I was aghast!!  To this day I still don't know who won that game!!!

Another downside is the emotional involvement of the announcers.  Two nights ago I was watching the Chinese and Japanese women play volleyball.  The match was hard-fought and Japan won by just a few points, a particularly bitter defeat given the Chinese hatred of the Japanese.  When the match was over, the announcers suddenly went silent—-for about a minute.  My guess is that they were either cussing or crying and had to pull themselves together.  When the camera came back on them, they were sitting stone-faced staring at the ground. They were two very unhappy campers.

I've read some stuff about people in the US complaining that NBC coverage is too American-centric.  Believe me, when it comes to ethno-centric broadcasting, NBC isn't even in the same league with CCTV.