- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 4, 2006

New DVDs fuel flap

The creators of “Sesame Street” yesterday released a new line of DVDs targeted to children as young as 6 months, outraging some child-development experts, who say no form of TV or video is suitable for youngsters younger than 2, Associated Press reports.

The DVDs — part of a series called “Sesame Beginnings” — are intended for viewing by parents along with their small children. Sesame Workshop developed the shows with help of experts from Zero to Three, a well-regarded nonprofit advocacy group.

Despite that prestigious partnership, the project has drawn fire from other experts, who note that the American Academy of Pediatrics advises against TV viewing for children younger than 2. They fear the Sesame brand and Zero to Three’s endorsement will convince many parents that their infants would benefit from watching videos.

“There is no evidence that screen media is beneficial for babies and growing evidence it may be harmful,” said the Boston-based Campaign for a Commercial-free Childhood. “‘Sesame Beginnings’ will encourage babies’ devotion to TV characters that have been licensed to promote hundreds of other products.”

There already is a huge market for videos aimed at infants: “Teletubbies” has been on the air for nearly a decade, sometimes drawing similar criticism, and Walt Disney Co.’s Baby Einstein products are very lucrative. Sesame Workshop had stayed out of this field but says it has found an effective way to promote interaction between parents and children younger than 2 — something its executives say other shows don’t do well. Working toward that goal, the videos show characters such as Baby Elmo and Baby Big Bird with their parents or caregivers, going through daily routines such as feeding and bedtime.

“These are not ‘baby videos’ — these are DVDs designed to promote healthy parent-child interactions,” says Matthew Melmed, Zero to Three’s executive director. “Once people understand what this product is designed to do, the response has been favorable.”

All eyes on Katie

The media whispers about Katie Couric’s potential move to fill Dan Rather’s anchor seat at CBS are growing louder.

According to numerous published reports, the move — which would give CBS a high-profile name to replace interim anchor Bob Schieffer on the “CBS Evening News” — will be made official sometime this week.

Miss Couric’s contract expires next month. The Arlington native, 49, is celebrating her 15th year with the NBC wake-up show and would begin at “CBS Evening News” in September, AP reports.

Great ‘Deal’ for NBC

Regis Philbin brags that he “saved” ABC when “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” became a hit while little else was happening there. Now Howie Mandel may be doing the same for NBC during its dark days.

The Mandel-hosted “Deal or No Deal” — which plays upon the greed of contestants who stand a chance at winning $1 million — was NBC’s most-watched show last week, AP reports, citing data from Nielsen Media Research.

“Deal or No Deal” first aired for a weeklong run in September. NBC brought it back after the winter Olympics, intending to air it on Mondays and Fridays. It has done so well since then that NBC has added a Wednesday showing.

Meanwhile, Fox’s “American Idol” remained TV’s most popular show for another week.

Overall, CBS was the week’s most watched network with 12.9 million viewers. Fox had 10.4 million, NBC had 9.2 million, and ABC had 8.9 million. Following were UPN with 2.9 million, the WB with 2.8 million and Pax TV with 430,000. Among the Spanish-language networks, Univision averaged 3.7 million viewers, Telemundo had 930,000 and TeleFutura had 550,000 (0.3, 1).

For the week of March 27 through April 2, the top five shows, their networks and viewerships were: “American Idol” (Tuesday), Fox, 31.71 million; “American Idol” (Wednesday), Fox, 27.66 million; “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” CBS, 25.23 million; “Grey’s Anatomy,” ABC, 22.35 million;and “Desperate Housewives,” ABC, 21.82 million.

MTV says viva Latino

MTV must be listening to the debate over immigration policies.

The music channel has announced a new spinoff channel, MTV Tr3s (MTV Three), which will fuse American and Latin music influences.

The new network, which will be introduced later this year, will be geared toward bicultural viewers between 12 and 34, the network says.

Viewers can expect the usual array of MTV programming — starting with music but also including documentaries and lifestyle series about America’s Latino population.

“Young Latinos are leading the most important demographic changes in this country, and we all see more and more of the pop-culture landscape impacted by Latino influence,” says MTV President Christina Norman.

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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