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The British and world media is working itself into a frenzy ahead of the birth of Prince William and Kate Middleton‘s baby, but nowhere are feelings as varied and as intense as in the former colonies of the British Empire.
Hard-core royalists in Canada and New Zealand are stocking up on Union Jacks and “Born to Rule” babywear ahead of the big day, and republican voices in Australia have grown conspicuously silent. Meanwhile, the Indian media is contemplating the impending news of a new British prince or princess with an amused shrug.
Kate Middleton isn’t yet blanket front-page news in Canada, but the nation is preparing to jump on the royal bandwagon as soon the birth is announced outside the private Lindo wing of St. Mary’s Hospital in London. The city of Toronto will light up its iconic CN Tower in either pink or blue depending on the gender of the newborn heir to the throne. A similar blue or pink illumination will grace nearby Niagara Falls after the Monarchist League of Canada successfully lobbied local authorities.
Canadian national broadcasters CBC and CTV have bureaus in London ready to pounce on any royal baby news, while major publications such as Hello Canada, Macleans and the Globe and Mail newspaper are readying commemorative editions for Canadian royal watchers to celebrate the birth. Royal mugs emblazoned with the newborn baby’s name are certain to follow in local shops.
According to a online Globe and Mail poll, Canadians are betting the royal baby will be a blue-eyed girl named Victoria.
But if royal baby fever is only starting to heat up in Canada, it’s near the boiling point Down Under. In proudly royalist New Zealand the shops are already full of British “flags, streamers, face paints, British costumes…and rubber baby masks” according to national newspaper the New Zealand Herald. Television, radio and online media are providing blow-by-blow coverage of the event, even if the news before the birth is mainly about waiting and speculation.
Even in Australia, where there are strong and usually vocal calls to break with the British monarchy and become a full-fledged republic, everyone is on royal baby watch. The country’s media, much of it controlled by News Corp mogul Rupert Murdoch, knows there’s nothing like a good royal story to sell magazines and drive TV ratings.
Australia’s three commercial broadcasters and national broadcaster the Australian Broadcasting Corp. all have correspondents on the ground in London, while leading broadcasters the Nine and Seven networks have flown over additional reporters. Networks are updating their stories several times a day, from their breakfast TV shows through to their evening news bulletins, while each major weekly women’s tabloid has William and Kate on its cover this week.
But perhaps it was Seven network correspondent Mike Amor, who is usually based in the U.S. but who traveled to London late last week, who best summed up the mood on Tuesday’s Sunrise program. Reporting from outside the hospital where the media has set up an area full of ladders waiting for photographers to get their best shot, Amor said, ”I thought this royal baby watch thing was going to be exciting…it hasn’t been so far.”
His network colleague, reporter Melissa Doyle, agreed from outside Buckingham Palace: “We wait, wait, they’re really messing with us now.”
Meanwhile, in India — once the most populous nation in the British empire — the impending royal birth has been greeted with more indifference than excitement. Media coverage has mostly relied on existing international stories from wire feeds and other outlets. For now, no major Indian news network crews appear to be stationed outside St. Mary’s Hospital, and social media interest is minimal.
Instead, a different royal baby has stolen the limelight on the subcontinent: Abram, the newborn son of Bollywood king Shah Rukh Khan. There has been blanket media coverage of Abram and his famous dad — with a hint of scandal to give it an edge.
Some reports have claimed that Khan had a prenatal test to determine the sex of the baby conducted. The procedure has been banned in India to prevent the aborting of baby girls.
Authorities have begun an official investigation into the claims, which Khan has publicly dismissed, issuing a statement that “the baby was born much before these speculations into ‘sex determination’ and other issues” emerged.
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