Originally created 01/20/99

Digital format PBS Kids Channel to debut



PASADENA, Calif. -- PBS plans to boost spending on children's television, with some money devoted to a 24-hour PBS Kids Channel.

The channel scheduled to begin broadcasting in September will include such shows as "Barney & Friends" and "Teletubbies," PBS President Ervin Duggan told the Television Critics Association on Monday.

By the end of 1999, about a third of the country will be able to receive the channel through PBS stations with digital capability, Duggan said.

How many viewers see it will depend on how many invest in costly digital TV sets. Duggan acknowledged that the initial audience will be small.

The channel is part of a children's initiative that will include new preschool programs, an expansion of the PBS Kids Web site and an increase in PBS's free book distribution program, Duggan said.

PBS expects to spend substantially more on children's programming and services next year. The budget for 1999 is $27 million; the proposed budget for 2000 is $40 million, PBS spokesman Tom Epstein said.

Over three years, the planned investment is about $125 million, said Kathy Quattrone, executive vice president of PBS Programming Services.