A letter from a coalition of child advocates asking PBS to stop airing Teletubbies has been met by a refusal to cut the show and a defense of its educational qualities.
The letter, signed by 20 child psychologists, educators and authors under the ‘Commercial Alert’ banner, asked that the show be taken off the air because it encourages toddlers as young as one to watch TV, and because Teletubbies tie-ins with Burger King and McDonald’s promote junk food. The letter cites a report from the American Academy of Pediatrics as saying that increased television use is a ‘significant factor leading to obesity.’ The same report is then cited as saying that parents should avoid allowing kids younger than age two to watch TV because they have a critical need for direct interactions with caregivers at that age.
PBS associate director of corporate communication Dara Goldberg counters that toddlers will watch TV whether Teletubbies is on the air or not, and it’s better that they watch a show ‘based on solid principles and good values,’ rather than something like ‘Jerry Springer or Pokémon or a program that doesn’t have any educational value.’
In response to the charge that fast food tie-ins foster childhood obesity, Goldberg would only say that such partnerships are encouraged as an effective way to ‘help promote our programming to an interested audience.’