August 22, 2008

DT Friday Freakout's A Freakout, Except They Call It Le Freakout Edition

I had so much fun poring through the months-long buildup to the recent decision by the French government to ban television channels and programming that targets 0-3 year-olds--or as they're adorably called in French officialdom, "les tous petits." I mean, the entire country's on vacation and they still manage to produce the biggest, officialest freakout of the week? France, this Friday Freakout is for you:


  • First off, some history and a timeline: the AP story yesterday was about a High Audiovisual Council [Conseil supérieur de l'audiovisuel, or CSA] ruling that actually came down on July 22nd. The fight was joined last October when US-based BabyFirstTV launched on CanalSat, the major French satellite TV company. [Baby TV, a competitor owned by News Corp., is available on TPS, another satellite provider which merged with CanalSat in 2007. The services are in the process of being consolidated.]

    In April, the Minister of Health convened a hearing with an expert panel.

    Then in June, as the AP reported, Culture Minister Christine Albanel weighed in in a big way in an interview with le Parisien.

    Instrumental throughout the process: the official government-funded family rights organization, Union Nationale des Associations Familiales, or l'UNAF.

  • When BabyFirst TV launched in October 2007, Liberation saw it as a shifty, distinctly American problem:
    In the USA, where the mother does not exist, bacon [heh, a literal translation of "les lardons"] spend two to three hours a day in front of the TV. "The interest of the child that is not what motivates people who make these channels, said [child psychiatrist] Marie-Rose Moro, "of course, it's a commercial interest: it creates need and dependence. "And what do the police, excuse me, the CSA, do? Baby TV and Baby First TV have been very careful not to be broadcast from France and are therefore not subject to its rules, unlike [domestic kid networks] Piwi and Tiji.
    [, eng.]

  • UNAF jumped right in, criticizing TV for babies based on American experiments that showed kids who watched TV had a harder time finding hidden objects than kids who interacted with humans. They also warned that kids faced the "risque d'ancrer cette habitude dans sa vie." That's right, if babies start watching TV, they'll be hooked for life. [, eng.]

  • In May, UNAF's president met with the Minister of Health to convey that the experts have "unanimously confirmed the dangerous character of these channels" for babies. But that's not all:
    Another point raised by UNAF : the distribution of television via mobile phones: UNAF demanded that Youth-rated programs not be permitted to be distributed to younger children and that the CSA's identification system be applied to mobile phones."
    [, eng.]

  • Barely a week later, the foundations of the ban have been laid. There are still questions about the difference between 0-2 and 2-3 yo, but either way, "alarming" research from the US and Germany showed the many developmental risks TV poses for babies. [, eng.]

  • Alarmes! les citoyens! Culture minister Christine Albanel jumped into the fray in June, declaring
    Je lance pour ma part un cri d'alarme. Quand on lit les études sur le sujet on se dit vraiment : télés pour bébés, attention danger ! [For my part, I raise the alarm cry. When I read the studies on the subject, they really tell me: TV for babies, attention danger !
    Nevertheless, Albanel didn't call for banning the channels "because they are issued from abroad." Wait, so all this ban stuff only applies to domestic channels after all, and international channels [i.e., BabyFirstTV and Baby TV] just get the warning labels?? [, eng.]

  • For a nuanced sanity check on the "don't let the kid watch TV" issue, check out LJ Williamson's article on Babble. Well, it's sane except for the expert from the AAP calling something "silly poo-poo." Dude. [">]

  • Oh, just one completely different alarming note: Apparently there's an unprecedented spike in measles cases in the US, especially among homeschoolers and anti-vaccination types. Turns out that not getting the vaccine increases your chances of getting the disease. Who knew? []

  • 1 Comment

    very interesting + guilt inducing, esp. when they say "in the usa, where the mother does not exist" + it hits a nerve. even though i breastfed on demand for 2 1/2 years + took my daughter to 2-3 outings a day, i did the gateway drugs: baby einstein + pbs shows, to get a shower in (no babysitter ever). now my daughter is a webhog pbs gamer + even though we don't have the disney channel, she's into princesses + i'm trying to shield her from hannah montana as long as possible

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