By Sebastian Usher
BBC World Media correspondent
Russian television went live with the dramatic conclusion to the school siege in Beslan.
One of the main channels, NTV, was the first to go into rolling coverage at about the same time as other broadcasters like the BBC and CNN did.
Two of the other most popular Russian channels, state-owned RTV and the half state-owned Channel One, did not go live for another half-hour.
The stations' coverage of the end of the siege was similar, relying on correspondents at the scene and the studio anchor.
Russian TV only went live for the denouement of the crisis on Friday
Much of the information came from the flood of news agency reports, reflecting the general sense of chaos and confusion over what was happening.
Russians saw the same raw, emotional images of children fleeing and the wounded being brought out on stretchers.
But there was no analysis and no questioning of the official line - that the violent end to the siege had been triggered by the hostage-takers.
Even NTV - which used to be the hardest-hitting channel newswise - reported official statements without comment, in contrast to its coverage of the Moscow theatre siege two years ago.
All three stations ended their rolling coverage and went back to normal programming after about three and a half hours, although they continued to present news bulletins on the hour with the latest on the situation.
The comparative restraint of the coverage fits a pattern that has developed in recent days as Russia has faced a series of attacks on civilian targets.
Only last week, the near-simultaneous crash of two Russian planes was for some time portrayed in the broadcast media as more likely to be an accident than an act of terror - despite an overwhelming sense among Russians that it was the latter.
It was the country's more independent press that angrily rejected the official explanation and demanded a full investigation.
In an article entitled "Honouring the dead with hours of lies", a columnist in the Moscow Times argued that Russian broadcasters had been complicit in trying to keep a lid on what was really happening.
Russian broadcast coverage of the Beslan siege was again relatively muted until its dramatic denouement.
The main TV stations put on extra bulletins and interrupted regular programming with news flashes, but there was no rolling coverage until Friday morning.
A video message reported to have been recorded by parents of the children pleading with President Putin to save their children and meet the hostage-takers' demands was never shown.
One Russian journalist commenting on the TV coverage said that in the first two days Russians who relied on television for their news might have not even have known that hundreds of hostages were being held in Beslan.
Writing on a Russian news website, Alexander Kirichenko said this could be because journalists had tired of the story after hours of watching and waiting but it was more likely that they had - as he put it - received orders from above.
That of course changed with the intense drama of the end to the siege.
But in a sign of how tightly the government now controls Russian TV, there is little chance that any version of events opposed to the official one will be aired until it becomes impossible to ignore.
One broadcaster, the privately-owned radio station Echo Moskvy, has continued to show a more independent line, with commentators implicitly questioning the government's policies.
It has also been almost alone amongst Russian broadcasters in suggesting that the number of hostages in the school might have been as high as 1,500 - giving a sense of just how much might be at stake.
But it is Russia's newspapers that have so far been most willing to question how the government was handling the siege and how much its own policies towards Chechnya might have contributed to the crisis.
After a first response in which many denounced the hostage-takers as setting a new standard of inhumanity and barbarism in targeting children, some newspapers had begun to turn their attention towards the government in their Friday editions printed just hours before the siege came to a violent end.
Izvestiya said whatever the outcome, it was clear that the current government strategy towards Chechnya must be radically changed.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta went further, accusing the government of using propaganda to hide the real cause of the recent attacks, blaming it on international terrorism when it was, the paper says, the failure to resolve the Chechnya situation that was responsible.
"What will make the people wake up and demand the resignation of the authorities?" the paper asks.
The verdict of Russian newspapers in the coming days on how the government handled the siege will give one of the clearest signs of how President Putin has weathered what has been perhaps the biggest challenge so far to his authority.