France bans kiddie channels

France’s Conseil Superieur d’Audiovisuel (CSA), its television regulator, has prohibited the broadcasting of shows to children under three years of age.
This is understood to immediately affect channels like Baby TV, and BabyFirstTV which are widely available on French cable systems. France's minister for culture and communication, Christine Albanel, issued a "cry of alarm" to parents in June about channels dedicated 24 hours a day to baby-targeted programming. In a newspaper interview, she called them "a danger" and urged parents not to use them to help their children get to sleep. The intention is to shield children from developmental risks, says the CSA.

Baby TV and BabyFirstTV are not based in France, and this might well encourage the channels to fight the ruling based on Europe’s “Television Without Frontiers” directive, which permits channels that are properly licensed in one member state to beam their signals into neighbouring states within Europe. Certain Scandinavian nations have forbidden advertising to children, for example, and this has resulted in most such channels being based – and licensed - in London.

The CSA ruling also orders French cable operators that air other foreign channels with programming for babies to broadcast warning messages to parents. The messages must read: "Watching television can slow the development of children under 3, even when it involves channels aimed specifically at them."

It is quite likely that Award-winning programming like BBC Worldwide’s Tellytubbies, which specifically targets very young children, would have to carry the warning caption. "Television viewing hurts the development of children under 3 years old and poses a certain number of risks, encouraging passivity, slow language acquisition, over-excitedness, troubles with sleep and concentration as well as dependence on screens," the CSA ruling said.

Guy Oranim, CEO and co-founder of BabyFirstTV, said he "respectfully objects" to the French council's ruling. He said the channel's content is carefully screened to ensure it is positive and educational, and that the channel encourages parents to make sure their babies don't go overboard on TV but include it in a balanced schedule. "One of the reasons we created BabyFirstTV is that we thought there was no good programming for babies on TV, and according to the research that is out there, most of the babies are watching TV anyway," he said.

BabyFirstTV is backed by Dutch/Israeli and Los Angeles-based financial institutions. BabyTV is owned by Fox, and based in London.