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July 15, 2008

 

Contact: Josh Golin (617-896-9369; josh<at>commercialfreechildhood.org)   

 

For Immediate Release  

 

CCFC to FTC:  Whatever Happened to BabyFirstTV?

 

It’s been over two years since The Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) filed a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Complaint against Baby Einstein, Baby Brainy, and BabyFirstTV for false and deceptive marketing. The FTC’s subsequent investigation spurred significant changes to Baby Einstein’s and Brainy Baby’s marketing strategies.  But for BabyFirstTV, it’s business as usual.

 

In a letter sent today, CCFC urged the FTC to hold BabyFirstTV accountable for its false and deceptive marketing and to offer refunds to past and current subscribers to the channel.  The FTC has never responded explicitly to CCFC’s Complaint against the nation’s first ever 24 hour television station for babies.  As a result, BabyFirstTV continues to make brazen claims about the channel’s educational benefits for infants and toddlers – without providing substantiation. There is no evidence that television is beneficial for children under two and growing concern it may be harmful.

 

“The FTC’s delay in addressing our Complaint is concerning and puts countless babies at risk,” said Susan Linn, CCFC’s director and author of The Case of Make Believe: Saving Play in a Commercialized World.  “BabyFirstTV’s false and deceptive marketing makes it likely that a whole cohort of babies has already missed out on experiences essential to their growth and development.  Research suggests that the more babies watch television, the less time they spend engaged in creative play and interacting with parents – two activities proven to have educational value.”

 

In response to CCFC’s Complaint against Baby Einstein and BabyFirstTV, the FTC stated that, “advertisers must have adequate substantiation for educational and/or cognitive development claims that they make for their products, including for videos marketed for children under the age of two.”  Yet BabyFirstTV continues to make what appear to be unsubstantiated claims that its channel “is an educational tool” that can give babies a “head start, in art, math, language, and music.”  BabyFirstTV even claims that specific programs are designed to develop specific skills such as language development, pattern identification, or creativity. 

 

"The standards established by the FTC clearly indicate that BabyFirstTV must substantiate any educational claims about its programming," said Coriell Wright, Esq. of the Institute for Public Representation and Counsel for CCFC.  "If, as the evidence suggests, BabyFirstTV cannot provide research to support these claims, they should be held accountable for violating Section 5 of the FTC Act and their ongoing deception of parents."

 

CCFC believes that BabyFirstTV cannot substantiate its educational claims because there is no publicly available research demonstrating that television is beneficial to children under two.  In 2007, BabyFirstTV sent a cease and desist letter to CCFC stating that, “any and all claims [BabyFirstTV] makes about its programming are backed by overwhelming substantiation.”  Yet the “evidence” offered by BabyFirstTV consisted of research conducted almost exclusively with older children and entirely with children watching programming other than BabyFirstTV.  For instance, BabyFirstTV cites a study that found,  “Preschoolers who viewed educational TV programs had higher grades and read more books in high school” as part of the “overwhelming substantiation” that its own programming is educational for babies.

 

“Given the significant developmental differences between infants and preschoolers, it is ludicrous to claim that research conducted with older children tells us anything about BabyFirstTV,” said Dr. Linn.  “It’s past time for the FTC to hold BabyFirstTV accountable.”

 

The complete text of the letter can be found at http://commercialfreechildhood.org/pdf/bftlettertoftc.pdf

 

Timeline of Events

 

May 1, 2006 – CCFC files a Complaint and Request for Investigation against Brainy Baby and Baby Einstein for falsely and deceptively marketing their videos as educational for babies. http://www.commercialfreechildhood.org/pressreleases/babyvideoftccomplaint.htm.

 

May 11, 2006 – BabyFirstTV, the first twenty-four television network for babies is launched in the U.S.  http://www.commercialfreechildhood.org/pressreleases/babyfirsttv.htm

 

June 13, 2006 – CCFC adds BabyFirstTV to its Complaint against Brainy Baby and Baby Einstein.  http://www.commercialfreechildhood.org/pressreleases/babyfirsttvcomplaint.htm.

 

May 15, 2007 – CCFC, in connection with its FTC Complaint against BabyFirstTV, sends a letter to ten U.S. cable companies urging them not to carry BabyFirstTV because the channel “seduces potential subscribers with false claims that its programming is educational for infants.”  http://www.commercialfreechildhood.org/pressreleases/babyfirstcable.htm

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May 17, 2007 – BabyFirstTV sends a cease and desist letter to CCFC and demands a retraction of CCFC’s May 15 letter to the cable companies.  BabyFirstTV’s letter claims there is “overwhelming substantiation” that BabyFirstTV is educational for babies.  As evidence, the letter refers to eight studies.  Seven of the studies were conducted on children older than BabyFirstTV’s targeted audience and the findings of the eighth – which was conducted on a small sample size with no control group – have been contradicted by more recent studies.   Given that it is clearer than ever that BabyFirstTV cannot support its educational claims, CCFC refuses to retract the letter.  BabyFirstTV's letter to CCFC:  http://commercialfreechildhood.org/pdf/bftvtoccfc.pdf.  CCFC's response:  http://www.commercialfreechildhood.org/babyvideos/ccfctobft.pdf

 

December 5, 2007 – The FTC responds to CCFC’s Complaint against Baby Einstein and Brainy Baby.  The FTC says it is not recommending enforcement action, but notes that both companies have made significant changes to their website and that both companies “agreed to take steps to ensure that any claims of educational and/or developmental benefit for children under the age of two are adequately substantiated.”  The FTC notes that research conducted on older children will not be considered adequate substantiation and that its ruling “would apply to representations made by any marketer of products claimed to provide educational or developmental benefits to children under two.”  http://commercialfreechildhood.org/actions/lettertoccfc.pdf

 

July 15, 2008 – Noting that BabyFirstTV continues to claim – without substantiation – that its programming is educational for babies, CCFC urges the FTC to take explicit action against BabyFirstTV.  http://commercialfreechildhood.org/pdf/bftlettertoftc.pdf.

 

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