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Thursday, 31 January, 2002, 08:47 GMT
Teletubbies say Eh Oh to China
Teletubbies
The Teletubbies have already boosted BBC revenues
Teletubbies, the BBC children's show which has already been sold to more than 100 countries, is to be broadcast on Chinese TV - to a potential audience of hundreds of millions.

The series will be renamed Tianxian Baobao - Mandarin for Antenna Babies - and aired on CCTV1, the major state TV channel.

The series, which has been a ratings and commercial success for the BBC, has also attracted controversy.

Some educationalists criticised the "baby talk" of Tinky Winky, Dipsy, Laa-Laa and Po, saying that exposure to it could harm speech development in the show's pre-school target audience.

Tinky Winky
Tinky Winky has courted controversy
That charge is not accepted by the programme makers, who say the Teletubbies help infants develop their communication and language skills.

But translation of the Teletubbies' unique language for a Chinese audience may prove to be a problem.

There have been reports that, after trying to recreate the four characters' method of talking into Mandarin, new actors had to be found to dub the lines to the BBC's satisfaction.

'Gay lifestyle'

The export success of Teletubbies has brought other problems.

When the show was first broadcast in the US in 1999, the Christian campaigner Jerry Falwell accused Tinky Winky of "modelling the gay lifestyle".

Tinky Winky, though apparently male, carries a handbag, is purple - "the gay-pride colour" and his antenna is "shaped like a triangle - the gay-pride symbol".

But Steve Rice, a spokesman for Itsy Bitsy Entertainment, which licenses the Teletubbies in the US, responded by saying: "It's a children's show, folks. To think we would be putting sexual innuendo in a children's show is kind of outlandish."

And Dave Thompson, the first actor to play Tinky Winky, was sacked in 1997, after producers said he had interpreted the character incorrectly.

'Risks'

The British actor said: "I was always the one to test out the limitations of the costume.

"I was the first to fall off my chair and roll over. I took all the risks."

World sales of Teletubbies and its spin-off merchandise has made a fortune for its creators as well as for the BBC.

In 2001 it was reported that the Teletubbies had made 116m for the BBC's commercial arm, BBC Worldwide.

See also:

04 Jul 01 | TV and Radio
Teletubbies boost BBC profit
13 Nov 00 | Entertainment
Teletubbies head for Russia
12 Nov 00 | Entertainment
Children's favourites honoured
13 Sep 00 | Entertainment
Eh oh! BBC loses Teletubbies case
05 Sep 00 | Wales
Teletubbies turn to wind power
15 Feb 99 | Entertainment
'Gay Tinky Winky bad for children'
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