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American Babies Get Their Own TV Channel


These days it seems like American television -- with its hundreds of cable, satellite and over-the-air programs -- has us in its clutches from cradle to grave.

On the "grave" side, there's the Home Box Office cable-TV hit called Six Feet Under, now in reruns, about a family-owned funeral home -- not to mention the raft of shows about the forensic inspection of dead bodies.

On the other end of life's spectrum, there have been plenty of TV shows for kids. Kids, as in five, six, ten years old.

But now the extreme has been reached with a whole new channel just for babies. Not ABOUT babies: FOR babies -- wee ones, six months, a year, two years old. Instead of just listening to Mom or Dad sing a lullaby or goo-ing at a dangling fish on a mobile in their cribs, infants will now get to watch videos just for them. Colorful and musical and cute ones, no doubt. The shows will be commercial-free, perhaps because infants rarely have money to spend on products.

The videos will appear on a network to which parents can subscribe for about $10 a month, called BabyFirstTV. As its executives point out, babies are already watching TV. About two-thirds of American children under two watch something on the tube every day from their parents' laps or their playpens.

But even before this network was announced, an academy of baby doctors condemned the idea of babies watching television at all. Even the most imaginative shows are no substitute for human interaction, say the pediatricians. They worry that parents will use the new channel as a cheap babysitter, or will bombard their tiny tots with hour after hour of shows in an effort to make them smarter.

That's ironic, because we're always hearing how dumb we've become, watching so much TV.

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