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Going Laa-Laa over the Teletubbies.

They have spawned a multi-million pound industry and reached the top of the music and television charts but the world remains divided about the Teletubbies.

The popular BBC2 characters were the focus of a "dumbing down" debate yesterday at a world children's TV summit attended by politicians and broadcasting executives from around the globe.

Lining up in one corner were countries which have rejected the chance to screen the children's series. Facing them were, among others, American and South African TV officials who welcomed the antics of Tinky Winky, Dipsy, Laa-Laa and Po. And in the middle Teletubbies creator Anne Wood who welcomed the controversy her characters had aroused.

"What I hope my programme does is give children confidence," she told the audience on the first day of a week-long examination of children's TV issues at London's Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre.

"I've never had the experience of pre-school children being in a debate like this. All I can say is that I hope the controversy continues."

Ms Wood, creative director of Warwickshire-based Ragdoll Productions, which makes Teletubbies, said they had played a key part in focusing public attention on the TV needs of the very young. She added: "I know people would like to make a wax image of me and stick pins in it. But children have a right to enjoy themselves."

She said research into the impact of the programme "was entirely positive. It helps them to develop speech and those having difficulties are helped by it."

Ms Wood claimed the needs of young children had been ignored in the past. "Until Teletubbies their world has been practically invisible."

Delegates were divided about the programme's value. One Australian representative said the show was regressive for children who had already gone "beyond the babbling stage.
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Mar 10, 1998
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