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Publications     TELEVIZION No. 12/1999/2

"The Teletubbies"


Young children – they are becoming increasingly rare in highly-developed societies and perhaps for this very reason also give rise to irrational public discussions. When the "Teletubbies" were first broadcast in the United Kingdom in March 1997 a storm of indignation went through the press and continued in all the countries in which this television series, so popular with children, was shown. The main criticism was directed against television programmes being produced for infants at all, against the simplicity of the "Teletubbies", the language they used and worldwide merchandising.

What is the reason for that? This programme format is new. That, as we know, terrifies adults, as anything new in any area of life is frightening at first, and here we are dealing with young children whose need for protection is not questioned. What is indispensable for the development of pre-school children is described in this journal by the paediatrician and psychiatrist Nikolaus von Hofacker. His assessments and demands are certainly compatible with the findings of the IZI Study from the perspective of modern (media) childhood. It may be underestimated that precisely infants, who are especially protected or encouraged, take pleasure in the "Teletubbies". A mother from Israel, a participant in a relevant study (Lemisch and Tidhar), explains it in this way: "The "Teletubbies" simply entertains the children a bit; the programme is on their level and does not just drive and push them ahead, for that, of course, is something we are doing all the time with them: pushing, pushing, pushing them on..."

It is odd: we have fewer and fewer children, but the pressure of expectation which parents and other adults place on them has risen noticeably in recent years, and it is beginning at an ever earlier age. Well-made television programmes therefore have every chance of making everyday life somewhat easier - and more cheerful - for young and very young viewers.

Paul Löhr


I don't work without breaking taboos
Interview with Albert Schäfer, the head of the ARD/ZDF Children's Channel

The young children's series "Teletubbies" has given the German ARD/ZDF Children's Channel (Der Kinderkanal), too, a sense of greater achievement. This is helping it to establish itself as a haven for public service children's television.


David Buckingham
Blurring the boundaries
"Teletubbies" and children's media today.

It is not easy to find out what children get from their "Teletubbies", even though the series has become so successful internationally. Adolescents and many adults as well seem to view the programme in search of their lost childhood.

Karin Hake
Not without research!
The "Teletubbies" in Norway!

Research findings that would allow the "Teletubbies" to be objectively assessed are not yet available in the Scandinavian countries – but they are urgently required.

Anne M. White
To be blamed: The Press in Britain

In Britain the newspapers, among others, have made the "Teletubbies" well known. There has been hardly any coverage of the television series itself, but a lot of hype, hysteria and hearsay has been produced.

Sue Howard and Susan Roberts
"Teletubbies" down under: The Australian experience

Many newspapers in Australia – as in other countries – have linked the "Teletubbies" with homosexuality, drug abuse and suchlike, without any proof whatsoever. The first findings of a study, however, raise hopes.

Horst Stipp
Under fire from American programme criticism

In the USA, too, the evaluation of the "Teletubbies" suffers from a lack of research data and premature negative criticism.

Nikolaus von Hofacker
The first years of life

In the course of complex early childhood development processes the "Teletubbies" can be a help and fun for young children.


Jackie Marsh
Learning to speak, read and write with the "Teletubbies"
The UK experience.

As many children from different social groups know and like the "Teletubbies", this series can be an incentive to learn how to read and write in pre-school classes and kindergartens.

Roslyn Elliott
TV in Australian day-care centres

Television programmes for children that support their development are positively assessed in Australia – the "Teletubbies" is not one of these.

Dafna Lemish and Chava E. Tidhar
Mothers close to life
An Israelian case study.

In Israel it is especially mothers from the middle class who appreciate the "Teletubbies" and have no qualms about letting their children watch this series.

Claudia Höller and Sabine Müller
"Eh-Oh - it's Teletubby time"
The results of a qualitative study in Germany.

No problems are to be expected from the "Teletubbies". Bur children should be given a chance to move and express themselves during and after the broadcast.

Petra Best
The "Teletubbies" in parent counseling.

The "Teletubbies" seems less suited to answering why-questions.

Maya Götz
Children are enchanted, parents concerned.

Research findings from Germany reflect a world-wide trend: children have fun with the "Teletubbies" and their parents have problems with this new porgramme format.


You can order a paperback version of this special issue of TELEVIZION by sending an e-Mail.
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