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UK children's TV in cash 'crisis'

26 November 07 01:25 GMT

A campaign has been launched to protect the quality of children's TV in the UK.

Former Playschool presenter Floella Benjamin is spearheading a new petition organised by Pact, which represents independent TV companies.

Pact fears a fall in UK-made programmes in favour of cartoons and US imports threatens the quality of children's TV.

Laurence Bowen, producer of Bafta winner My Life As A Popat, said: "The industry is in crisis and only direct government action can save it."

He said that TV channels were not putting enough cash into children's TV.

"ITV and Channel 4 have "pulled out of financing children's TV production. Five has pulled out of making TV for the over-fives. And the BBC has cut its children's TV budget by 10%," he said.

Last month, media regulator Ofcom called for a debate on the future of children's TV in Britain, saying just 17% was now home grown.

Examples of classic British-made TV cited by Pact include 1980s dramas Press Gang and Children's Ward.

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Figures produced for Ofcom's report - the most substantial analysis of British children's TV ever produced - showed overall investment in new British children's programmes dropped by £18m from £127m in 1998 to £109m last year.

Benjamin said: "British kids' TV has always been an inherent part of our culture. For generations, the programmes aimed at kids have been celebrated not only for their strong content and challenging views, but for the endless choice.

"Kids' TV has, for many, provided a rite of passage.

"However, the continued reduction in funding that has taken place in the last few years has resulted in a fall in the number of new programmes made.

"Without immediate action, this spells the end of British kids' TV as we know it, leaving future generations nothing other than a series of re-runs and imports."

The campaign was launched to coincide with Sunday evening's Children's Baftas.

Entering your postcode at the Pact website will generate an automatic letter to your MP demanding the safeguarding of British children's programmes.

There is also a petition on the Downing Street website.

Pact chief executive John McVay said there was a real danger that the BBC will soon be the only source of home-grown children's shows.

"The market is failing British parents and British children," he said.

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