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Monday, 11 February, 2002, 00:51 GMT
Children's TV goes digital
Story Tellers presented by Danny John-Jules with Jelly and Jackson
Story Tellers with Danny John-Jules: Part of CBeebies
Children's broadcasting in the UK is entering a new era as two digital channels dedicated to younger viewers go on air.

CBBC and CBeebies are the first wave of the BBC's new digital channels.

CBBC, aimed at six to 13 year olds, is the most ambitious of the two as a large proportion of its output will go out live.

CBeebies is targeted at pre-school children and is pre-recorded.

Following a tense week of rehearsals at CBBC aimed at ironing out any technical glitches, the channel will launch on 11 February with a mix of original programming, cartoons and news.

The big launch pushes the output of children's programming on the BBC from about five and half hours a day to 31 hours.

CBBC
CBBC is aimed at children aged six to 13 years
And as a public service broadcaster the BBC is obliged to provide a mix of education and entertainment - a difficult brief to make appealing for its audience.

"The key is to provide a range and choice of programmes. Some sections of the day will be pitched to a children a little bit younger, while others will be for the older age group," said Paul Smith, head of presentation.

There are already a number of commercial and satellite and digital channels targeted at children such as Nickelodeon, Fox and Disney.

Something for everyone

But Mr Smith believes they are not all chasing the same audience.

"The thing about us is that we have that range of programmes, it's not all cartoons or American shows. There are factual, animation, cartoons, drama shows - something for everyone.

"Existing channels have a narrower brief but we are offering options. We don't expect everyone to be watching all the time but there will be something for all."

Among the new shows commissioned for CBBC are magazine show Xchange, Saturday Show Extra and Stitch Up!

There is also a new music show, CBBC Top 40, which will run down the charts on a Sunday, with the number one revealed simultaneously with the Radio 1 chart.

Award-winning Newsround will go out seven times a day, with a new set, branding and presenters.

During term time there will also be four hours of educational programming during the morning under the banner Class TV.

This is a big departure for the BBC which usually puts out schools programmes in the middle of the night.

Interactive

Mr Smith forecasts in time this will have a major impact on schools once digital television is more widespread and provides an alternative to teachers videoing late-night programmes.

Tweenies
Tweenies: Part of the pre-school offering

There is also a strong element of interactivity with both channels, with dedicated websites and the use of interactive features during programmes.

Parents and carers will be expected to get involved with CBeebies interactive elements.

Favourite characters such as Bob the Builder and Angelmouse feature in 14 games designed to build pre-school learning skills.

The channels have not set themselves any ratings targets but are expecting big things, especially from CBeebies.

As Mr Smith explained there is already an audience of 100,000 tuning in to pre-school programming on BBC Choice who it is hoped with automatically make the switch.

The main aim for CBBC is to see the audience grow as digital television becomes more popular.

See also:

08 Jan 02 | TV and Radio
Selling the digital dream
20 Nov 01 | TV and Radio
BBC children's channels unveiled
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