Ofcom to Investigate Baby TV Channels
Over Child Development Fears
October 14, 2008
Ofcom is to look into evidence that TV channels aimed at
pre-school children are damaging child development.
The regulator has asked its counterpart in France to
send research on the issue, after that country took
tough new measures to protect the young.
Across the channel there has been alarm that parents are
using dedicated baby channels, airing all day and night,
as a form of baby-sitting.
Researchers in France found that watching television
impacted on the development of children under three.
A study showed it delayed language learning, encouraged
passivity, reduced concentration, increased agitation
and caused sleep disorders.
From November TV channels in France will be banned from
promoting the proclaimed 'educational benefits' on shows
at aimed at under 3s.
It has also forced dedicated channels and programmes for
this age group to issue warning before they start.
This states: 'Watching television can slow the
development of children under three, even when it is
aimed specifically at them.'
Now the Counseil Superior Audiovisuel has passed on its
concerns to UK regulator Ofcom, which admits it will
consider any research which supports these fears.
Many hope Ofcom will use the French findings to force a
clampdown on the UK TV industry over rules governing
There are concerns from parenting groups that some
channels are encouraging irresponsible parents to leave
children in front of TV all day.
In France the moves have been seen as an attack on
foreign baby channels such as BabyFirstTV and Baby TV,
which also air in the UK.
The 24-hour a day broadcasters are both transmitted from
this country into France.
BabyFirstTV, which is a US based company, launched in
the UK last year.
It describes itself as a network dedicated to providing
innovative shows 'designed to inspire a baby's
The company caters for babies up to three-years-old and
says its shows are created by experts in child
development, education and psychology.
The service, which lets children interact, does not
feature any commercials or promotions and advises
parents against long periods of viewing.
Baby TV, privately owned, also airs in the UK and
France. It is designed to provide a 'safe, stimulating
and educational environment' for toddlers.
Similar internet services like this have also been
launched in recent years.
CBeebies, the BBC's channel for 0-6 year olds, which
shows In The Night Garden, airs between 6am and 7pm.
A report by Official Journal of the American Academy of
Pediatrics in 2007 found watching entertainment TV
before the age of three caused attention problems.
Claude Knights director of children's charity Kidscape
has called on Ofcom to make parents more aware of the
He said: 'It is really sad when TV is used as a
baby-sitter or a means of controlling very young
'There may well be parents that don't realise the
cumulative effects of exposure to TV.
'Ofcom should state the case and give the concerns about
possible harm revealed in this research.'
Yesterday Ofcom said: 'The CSA has made Ofcom aware of
its concerns regarding TV programming aimed at very
'Ofcom takes the protection of minors extremely
seriously and notes that Baby First TV provides
information to parents about how best to allow their
children to interact with its programming and advises
against long periods of viewing for young children.
'Ofcom is an evidence based regulator and at present
there has been no evidence supplied to Ofcom that proves
such content is harmful to minors.
'However, Ofcom has asked the CSA for any research which
supports their concerns and will consider in detail any
research it can provide.'
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