The mainland's strictly-controlled electronic media blazed new trails yesterday with live reporting of the start of the war. Within minutes of US missiles hitting Baghdad, state television and radio began simultaneous coverage of the events, including a live broadcast of US President George W. Bush's speech. The three main channels of the central government's China Central Television (CCTV) broadcast live feeds from CNN in Iraq while translating the accompanying reports into Chinese. Foreign news channels are normally available only in hotels and diplomatic compounds. After Mr Bush's speech, CCTV-1, the nation's most popular news channel, continued to provide live news while CCTV-4, its Chinese-language international counterpart, featured a live commentary by mainland military and foreign relation experts. Xinhua and the People's Daily also got into the act by posting up-to-date news on the war, including a fully-translated text of Mr Bush's speech on their Web sites. Radio and TV stations across the country also interrupted their normal broadcasts to provide live coverage. State media has not covered past international events live. During September 11, CCTV presented only a short bulletin. The public heavily criticised the station's actions and turned to foreign sources of news. Media experts said the government's decision to allow live war coverage was mostly driven by the mainland media's increasing free-market nature. The government had no choice, according to Li Xiguang, director of Tsinghua University's Centre for International Communications Studies. 'In this competitive age, you have to cover these events live or you lose your audience,' Professor Li said. As a result of economic reforms, mainland media organisations are increasingly dependent on advertising dollars for their survival.