Live television production of media events in China

The case of the Beijing Olympic Games

Authored by: Limin Liang

Routledge Handbook of Chinese Media

Print publication date:  May  2015
Online publication date:  April  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415520775
eBook ISBN: 9781315758350
Adobe ISBN: 9781317635925


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The countdown to the Beijing Olympics in 2008, widely seen as China’s ‘coming-out party’, started almost as soon as the city won the Olympic bid in 2001. An important component of this countdown was the media planning within China Central Television (CCTV), which is the state broadcaster and the Olympic TV rights holder in mainland China. The coverage would eventually amount to approximately 3,000 hours of programming across nine TV channels. Drawing from literature on media events and cultural production, this chapter engages with an under-studied topic in media events scholarship: the relationship between plans and improvisation at different stages of live broadcasting of a mega-event. Related to this, the chapter looks at the perception of ‘uncertainty’ in live television production as well as the strategies developed by media agents to cope with it. Regarding the component of ‘improvisation,’ in particular, the chapter revisits the concept of ‘what-a-story’ (Berkowitz 1992: 82–94) in news reporting and uses as a case study sprinter Liu Xiang’s unexpected withdrawal from racing in the Olympic Games, as an example to illustrate the dialectic relationship between plan and improvisation.

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