Censoring a Birth: The Bachchan Baby Saga

Hit me with a feather, please, and make it quick. Those who were getting all hot and bothered about how a judge was critical about the media are now agreeing to a ten-point censorship list only to protect the birth of a baby? Aishwariya Rai Bachchan may desire privacy, but what could possibly have made the Broadcast Editors’ Association send out a memo to television journalists and what has made them accept it?

Amitabh Bachchan says he is not aware. And the general secretary of the Association says:

“The main purpose (of the guideline) is to make Indian electronic news media more value-based and purposeful for broader public cause. I cannot respond to your email per se but I can only tell you about the sublime purpose which the BEA is seeking to achieve.”

This is not a public cause. A woman is going to deliver a baby. She is a celebrity. And the family made the announcement and has been using social networking sites to give updates. Her father-in-law also mentions it on his TV show KBC. (Will that also not be permitted?)

Let us look at the muzzling points first (my responses follow each):

  • No pre-coverage of the event.

What does pre-coverage mean? That no one can say things like she has a baby bump when they had a big ceremony for it?

  • Story of the birth of the baby to run only after, and on the basis of, official announcement.

There will be rumours, and often hospital sources do leak out information.

  • Story not to run on breaking news band.

I agree it should not be on breaking news band. It is not breaking news and the channels should know it. They do not have to be tutored.

  • No camera or OB vans at hospital or any other location (like the Bachchans’ homes Pratiksha or Jalsa) related to the story.


  • Channels will only go for photo-op or press conference if invited.

In that case, channels that are not should not bother to cover the event at all. Such invitations are always meant to ensure good coverage from the host’s point of view.

  • Channels will not carry any MMS or photo of the child. We can carry if issued by the family.

They can keep the child hidden.

  • No astrology show to be done on this issue.

Oh, come on. And someone says this has not been forced on them?

  • No 11.11.11 astro shows to be done.

Why? It is a date for the whole world.

  • The duration of story to be around a minute/ninety seconds.

Great. Now TV channels are being told how much is enough?

  • Obviously, unauthorized entry into hospital not permitted.


As I said, some amount of privacy is important. But these celebrities tweet and make public statements when it suits them. Let us not forget that Mr. Bachchan had gone off the press many years ago, but when he broke his silence he was ready to say and do anything. Aishwariya, too, after an ugly incident in her personal life decided to attend an award function with huge dark glasses to cover the bruise, making sure that the media noticed. Her wedding was also a big private affair that started in the streets. Their visits to several temples and places of worship become news. When Mr. Bachchan is in hospital, there is coverage. He stands in the balcony of his bungalow to greet the visitors who gather. If this were not reported, there would be considerably less interest in his durbars.

If the Association is so interested in public causes, then block all astrological programmes since they increase superstition. Do not rush to the sites of tragedy and push mikes into poor people’s faces for quotes. The media will have no right to park their vans outside the homes of people who are suffering – be it undertrials, riot victims, children with debilitating ailments, and any bloody human interest story. They must not keep running loops of murders and bloodied bodies.

Are those 300 channels that have agreed to the strictures willing to do any of this?

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This is the flipside of publicity. Demi Moore showed the world just how pregnant she was:

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