Time magazine reports that none of the country's three main TV networks interrupted their normal broadcasts to report Russia's worst terrorist attack in five years.
Critics say the slow response of the networks — Channel One, Rossia 1 and NTV — is indicative of the state of television journalism in Russia today. They claim that the broadcasters have been so cowed by the Kremlin, they are incapable of covering events of vital national importance.
Arina Borodina, a TV critic with Moscow's Kommersant newspaper, says: "Can you imagine an attack during rush hour in New York or Paris, and a television channel doesn't show anything for two hours?"
Ever since Vladimir Putin came to power a decade ago, the Kremlin has steadily reined in the coverage of the main television networks, all of which are controlled by the government or state-owned companies.
In the 1990s, the channels tended to slant their coverage in favor of their oligarch owners, but they also produced incisive investigative reports previously unknown to a population raised on Soviet propaganda.
The Kremlin has repeatedly denied dictating to the networks on how to cover major events, but they almost never stray from the official line nowadays and often provide fawning coverage of prime minister Putin President Dmitri Medvedev.
According to Anna Kachkayeva, a professor at Moscow State University and a TV critic with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, says the reluctance of the networks to broadcast breaking coverage of the bombings was only partially due to Kremlin pressure.
She believes the art of live coverage has also disappeared in the past 10 years as news broadcasts have become more and more scripted, saying: "There just aren't very many people around anymore who can do live television."
However, Anatoly Lysenko, a pioneer in contemporary Russian television, argues that the channels reported responsibly and helped avoid a city-wide panic.