Italian media dominated by quake coverage

More than 200 people have died in L'Aquila disaster

ROME -- The tragic earthquake that leveled parts of the medieval city of L'Aquila has gripped Italian television coverage since the early hours of Monday morning, with massive coverage on all the national networks forcing the postponement of several top-rated programs.

The earthquake, which registered 6.3 on the Richter scale, leveled dozens of buildings and damaged at least 10,000 others. On Tuesday, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said the death toll surpassed 200, with as many as 100,000 left homeless.

The tragedy has had a stronghold on the national media, with all newspapers running multiple front-page stories and news programs dominated by coverage of the tremors, which were felt as far away as Rome, 60 miles to the southwest.

Networks have gone so far as to cancel primetime programming. Mediaset's Canale 5 canceled the mega-hit "Grande Fratello" (Big Brother), and RAI temporarily pulled the plug on the popular variety program "Affari Tuoi" (Your Business) in order to allow for extra coverage of the aftermath of the earthquake.

The good news from broadcasters is that even without their standard-bearers on the air, viewership levels have reportedly spiked as viewers stay tuned to keep abreast of breaking news.
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