Given the sound, sound bytes and feverish excitement, one could be forgiven for thinking that a star is again shining bright atop a barn in Bethlehem, this time with the media in full attendance to record the arrival of the messiah. Turn Bethlehem into Bombay, the barn into the celebrity household of the Bachchans, and you would know what we are talking about. In the natural course of things, a baby (or babies) is due to would-be parents Abhishek and Aishwarya Bachchan, and the Broadcast Editors Association (BEA) has deemed it to be an event important enough to come up with a set of guidelines, circulated internally, on how it should be covered on television news channels.
Though it is yet to clarify whether the rulebook being put in place will hold true when other celebrities decide to have babies, or for that matter marry, cheat on spouses or die, BEA’s list of mostly don’ts is worth perusing. It includes a ban on pre-coverage of the event, unauthorised entry into hospitals as well as a ban on cameras and OB vans there. So those of you waiting for anxious, breathless coverage from the maternity ward should be prepared for disappointment. The rules also forbid astrology shows, including ones that debate the significance of being born on 11.11.11, though why astrology is otherwise suitable television content is beyond understanding.
How much of this will be followed in practice remains to be seen. Newspapers, not covered by the guidelines, have already gone to press speculating about the time of arrival of “the most celebrated baby” (making it sound like the winner of a contest), whose presence is being “eagerly awaited by its family” (unlike every other family where babies arrive without much fuss with the morning newspaper). Punters in New Delhi and Mumbai are a happy lot too, with betting on the baby’s gender running into crores of rupees. The only people left to be won over, we are told, are the somewhat cold-shouldered people of Aishwarya’s hometown Mangalore, who would rather place their bets on cockfights and buffalo races than the celebrity waiting to be unleashed on the world.