Are Canadian babies ready for their own TV channel?


 January 30, 2007

A TV channel aimed at babies under age three that has caused controversy in the U.S. and U.K. could soon be launched in Canada.

The CRTC, the federal regulator in charge of television, has approved the channel for distribution and Rogers Cable, one of Canada's largest cable carriers, is considering carrying it.

"We're having discussions with the channel to offer it to our customers," said Nancy Cottenden, a spokeswoman for Rogers, which serves viewers in Ontario and New Brunswick.

The channel offers commercial-free, educational programming that encourages interaction between parent and child, the broadcasters say. It would be available with a subscription fee.

But experts in child development say infants and toddlers should not be left in front of a television.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says infants and toddlers need to play and talk with others, and should be kept away from TV.

A 2003 study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a U.S.-based independent health think-tank, found that 68 per cent of American children under age two watch TV or videos daily.

BabyFirstTV launched in the U.S. last May and the BabyTV channel has been available in the U.K. since October.

Baby-appropriate programming
Dr. Edward McCabe, president of the American Pediatric Society and a member of the advisory board for BabyFirstTV, says if children are watching, they need appropriate content.

McCabe says he supports age-appropriate programming that has been designed with input from child-development experts.

"The studies all show that babies are watching TV," he said. "So let's provide babies and their families with the right content."

The Canadian version of BabyTV, available in both official languages, has short segments that are easier to understand for young children and claims to avoid the rapid flash and noise of regular TV programming.

Instead it features baby songs, animated segments, soothing music and gentle colours in the evening to help babies sleep, and games and activities parents and children can do together.

A Canadian competitor that had a similar channel proposal called BabyHD says it is disappointed the CRTC approved a channel with no homegrown shows.

"We are hugely disappointed with the CRTC's decision," said David Patterson, senior vice-president of High Fidelity HDTV Inc. in Toronto. "We're back to having to consider our alternatives."

BabyTV, based in the U.K., is pre-packaged and already shown in more than a dozen countries. It applied to the CRTC a month ahead of Patterson's BabyHD.


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