Playtime ends at ITV

Brit net shutters inhouse kids' TV arm

ITV, the U.K.’s embattled terrestrial commercial broadcaster, is pulling the plug on its children’s production arm, raising doubts about its commitment to tyke fare.

The web recently launched a dedicated kids’ channel, CITV, and industryites believe that ITV is preparing to jettison kids’ shows from ITV1’s afternoon schedule in favor of more lucrative fare. Advertising revenue, already under pressure from new media, will take another hit if, as some experts predict, the government bans junk-food advertising from children’s programming.

Program makers may lobby media regulator Ofcom to try to ensure that ITV, a powerhouse for children’s programs for many decades, continues to back U.K.-made kids’ shows rather than buying in cheaper, mostly American shows.

They fear that children will not see enough British-made shows reflecting their own concerns and culture as schedulers increasingly rely on imports.

ITV insists that the decision to dump its loss-making unit was purely to save money and not a scheduling decision.

“We can confirm that we are consulting on the disposal of ITV Production Kids as part of restructuring to improve efficiency,” said a spokesman. “The ITV Prods. kids unit has been responsible for many great children’s programs, and its content will continue to be seen on ITV for some time to come.

“The decision reflects the competitive production environment and is not a reflection of the quality of the unit’s work.

“We will be consulting with employees and unions about the changes, and are looking at the options for selling or disposing of the unit as a going concern.”

The move will involve 19 staff who work at production centers around the U.K.

It follows confirmation Monday that ITV’s factual department in Bristol is to close with the loss of up to 50 jobs.

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