China’s eyes on TV

Viewing figures jump amid SARS scare, Iraq war

SHANGHAI — The killer SARS epidemic has helped to boost TV viewing figures in China.

According to figures released May 16 by CVSC-Sofres Media (CSM), 2% more people watched daytime TV on local channels such as Shanghai TV in the first week of May than two weeks earlier. Even accounting for the May Day holidays, this is a significant jump for terrestrial TV, which has suffered at the hands of competing media in recent years.

As the number of SARS cases in Beijing rose in the last week of April, viewing figures also lurched upward as tens of thousands of people quarantined across the country and millions voluntarily confined to their homes turned on the tube.

SARS-themed programming and updates on the number of cases and deaths in each province have kept eyes glued to the screen.

Music and movie stars have also been doing their bit on the small screen to highlight the best measures to prevent infection, and variety shows in support of victims are screened nightly.

Viewing figures for China Central Television, the only national terrestrial broadcaster, had already increased during the war in Iraq and remained stable.

The global death toll from SARS stood at 667 on May 21.

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