France pulls plug on TV shows aimed at babies

France has banned its channels from airing TV shows aimed at children under three years of age.

France has banned its broadcasters from airing TV shows aimed at children under three years of age.

A ruling published Wednesday by the High Audiovisual Council, the French broadcast authority, bans such programming in an effort to protect the very young from what it described as the harmful effects of television.

"Television viewing hurts the development of children under three 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 ruling said.

The ruling follows a public debate in France over channels such as BabyFirstTV and Baby TV, which broadcast programming aimed at the under three set 24 hours a day.

French Culture Minister Christine Albanel issued a warning about such channels in June and urged parents not to use them.

The channels, which are available via satellite from the U.K., show programming with a gentle pace and no loud sounds that broadcasters claim can be enriching if baby and parent watch together.

But the fear is that parents will use baby-targetted programming to soothe children to sleep, or to amuse them when they are being fractious.

"They bombard children with images and sounds. We do not know what effects this may have on such young people," Albanel said in her warning to parents.

The French broadcast regulator consulted early childhood experts earlier this summer before issuing its ruling.

The ruling cannot stop BabyTV or BabyFirstTV from coming to France by satellite.

But it can prevent French channels from promoting any programming targetted to children under age three.

 BabyFirstTV began airing in Canada in July 2007 amid a debate over whether it was suitable for very young children to watch TV.