Foreign channels off air for China mourning

Bloomberg, HBO dark as country remembers quake victims

BEIJING -- Bloomberg and HBO both saw their Asia channels go temporarily off the air as China designated April 21 a national day of mourning for the approximately 2000 dead from an earthquake one week earlier.

As seen at an apartment and hotel complex in southeast Beijing that hosts both Chinese and foreign guests, and receives satellite broadcasts of some foreign channels, Bloomberg Asia and HBO Asia showed black screens, with the following message in both English and Chinese:

"Dear subscribers,

"To Mourn the Qinghai Yushu earthquake victims, the State Council of the People's Republic of China has announced that April 21st 2010 will be National Mourning Day. To express our deep condolences, the relevant agencies are to suspend relay of overseas channels with limited landing rights that contain entertainment programs over the announced period. Hereby we express our gratitude for your understanding and cooperation.

"April 21st, 2010"

The State Council is China's Cabinet. In 2008, the country observed a three-day national mourning period. The Yushu earthquake -- so known for the county in central China's Qinghai province where it took place -- will be observed with one day of mourning. All entertainment activities are suspended for a 24-hour period.

Although the notice did not specify cinemas as venues or activities to be temporarily stopped, a sign at the entrance of the UME Shuangjing cinema in southeastern Beijing indicated that there would be no screenings on Wednesday.

Despite Bloomberg and HBO being off the air, broadcasts by News Corp.'s English-language Star World channel, which shows popular American dramas and sitcoms, news channel CNN Asia, and Chinese-language Phoenix TV all continued with regular programming. News Corp.-owned music video network Channel V showed the China Central Television broadcast of earthquake relief efforts that was also shown on all of CCTV's channels, along with every provincial and municipal broadcaster in the country. Regular CCTV programming on Tuesday ended with a televised benefit show to raise money for victims in an already impoverished area.

Bloomberg and HBO representatives could not be reached for comment.

The April 14 earthquake comes less than a month before the opening of Expo 2010 Shanghai, the latest iteration of the World's Fair concept. Just as the May 2008 earthquake dampened but ultimately did not stop the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the Expo will open as scheduled on May 1.