Bachchan baby to escape TV news spotlight

MUMBAI Wed Nov 9, 2011 10:02am IST

Actress Aishwarya Rai Bachchan gestures on the red carpet of the Bollywood Zee Cine Awards at the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore January 14, 2011. REUTERS/Vivek Prakash/Files

Actress Aishwarya Rai Bachchan gestures on the red carpet of the Bollywood Zee Cine Awards at the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore January 14, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Vivek Prakash/Files

MUMBAI (Reuters) - In an unprecedented move, Indian TV news channels have drawn up a set of guidelines for media coverage of the birth of Aishwarya Rai Bachchan's baby.

The Bollywood actress is expected to give birth to her first child in November, and the Indian media has followed her pregnancy obsessively ever since father-in-law and actor Amitabh Bachchan announced it in June.

In a surprising act of restraint, the Broadcast Editors' Association (BEA) has circulated ten-point guidelines, hoping to avert the inevitable media circus around celebrities in India.

The guidelines include no pre-coverage of the event, no “breaking news” ticker and no astrology story related to the birth.

Rai, 38, a former Miss World, has been married to actor Abhishek Bachchan for more than four years and the star couple had been fending off baby rumours for months before the pregnancy was confirmed in June.

Arnab Goswami, Editor-in-Chief of Times Now and BEA vice-president, downplayed the coverage issue.

“Aishwarya’s baby is not a big deal at all," Goswami told Reuters.

"It is just one of the many things that editors discuss."

The BEA guidelines also state no unofficial pictures of the child will be broadcast and that no television OB vans will be parked outside the Bachchan residence or the hospital where Aishwarya is expected to give birth.

India has dozens of 24/7 TV news channels, many of whom have been criticised for their high-pitched and melodramatic coverage.

The new chairman of the Press Council, a quasi-judicial body which acts as a press watchdog, recently criticised the media, saying it was acting against the interests of the people.

“Eighty percent of the people are living in horrible poverty, unemployment, facing price rise, healthcare," said Markandey Katju.

"You divert attention from those problems and instead you project film stars and fashion parades and cricket as if they are the problems of the people,” the former Supreme Court judge said in an interview to a TV channel.

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