PBS Plans 24-Hour Kids' Digital Network

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All Teletubbies all the time: A kid's dream. A parent's nightmare. But by year's end it will be a reality for the tiny fraction of Americans who have access to high-definition digital television (HDTV). PBS will use the new medium to bring viewers a channel with round-the-clock programming for young children. "Barney and Friends" and the ubiquitous "Teletubbies" will be part of the lineup when PBS Kids Channel launches September 1. It may eventually include some educational programming like nature shows, since great photography makes better use of the high-resolution technology than does purple dinosaur fur.

The launch does raise a question: Who's watching Barney at 3 a.m.? Is this the most costly solution to soothing a baby on an all-night crying jag? "Yes, it would be helpful" for that purpose, says PBS spokesperson Windi Wentworth. "But we don't have a schedule yet." She adds that the network will also include some grown-up programming geared at parents of young kids, such as courses in early childhood development. The prospect of all-hours access to Barney and the Teletubbies is one more in a growing list of reasons you might someday shell out thousands of dollars for the high-definition television required to view HDTV. Another is that the network's digital signal provides interactivity with PBS's web site as well as the ability to decide when your child's favorite shows air on your set. Of course, since tie-in videos are currently available for most children's shows, and few toddlers are shy about asking for them incessantly, Barney-on-demand is already a reality with which most parents are familiar.