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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 July 2007, 16:41 GMT 17:41 UK
Warning of children's TV 'crisis'
Floella Benjamin
Floella Benjamin's own production company makes children's shows
Former Play School presenter Floella Benjamin has called for the government to address a "crisis" in children's TV.

Speaking to a London-based think tank, the star, 57, said commercial channels would come to rely on "a diet of cheap imports" unless action was taken soon.

She argued that the government should set aside money for companies making public service children's programmes.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport said it was already in discussion with broadcasters about children's TV.

Last year, both ITV and the BBC said they would cut the number of children's programmes they made.

Scene from My Parents Are Aliens (ITV plc)
The stars of My Parents Are Aliens have hit out at budget cuts
Talking to the Social Market Foundation, Benjamin said it was "shameful" that so little television was being created to reflect the lives of British youngsters.

"Children's television has to be funded properly... to give their audience opportunities to explore, imagine and indulge in a world that will last for a lifetime," she said.

A DCMS spokesman said: "Children's television programming is a much valued and important part of the UK's broadcasting environment."

But increased competition and restrictions on advertising during children's programmes "could threaten the ability of commercial public service broadcasters, such as ITV, to sustain their programming", he added.

'No teeth'

Media regulator Ofcom is to publish a review of children's television programming this autumn.

TV producer Laurence Bowen, who appeared alongside Benjamin, said the watchdog needed to be given more authority by the government.

Bowen told the audience his award-winning ITV children's comedy My Life As A Popat had ended because of budget considerations.

"Without a broadcasting bill that can give Ofcom the teeth to really insist that ITV does children's programmes, it's dead," he said.

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