ABC to launch kids' digital channel

Gov't to provide around $60 million over three years

SYDNEY -- The Australian Broadcasting Corp. will launch a free-to-air children's digital TV channel in the next few months now that it has funding, communications minister Stephen Conroy said Wednesday.

The amount of funding for the channel will be detailed in the government budget next month, but the ABC had assurances from the previous government that its funding would amount to about AUS$86 million ($60 million) over three years.

Details of the new channel are to be revealed in the coming weeks, ABC director of television Kim Dalton said, but ABC sources confirmed the channel will be skewed toward 8-to-12 year olds, with the bulk of preschool and younger kids programming remaining on the main ABC 1 channel.

The new channel will air for 15 hours a day and be complemented by interactive elements and online content.

Some current ABC programming will be simulcast on the channel and the broadcaster will be commissioning and acquiring new material for the channel, working closely with the independent production sector.

"The ABC's proposal to the government was (to broadcast) 50% Australian content on the channel across all genres, including drama, animation and factual programming," Dalton said. "This will ensure that future generations of Australian children can continue to see and hear Australian stories and Australian voices on children's television."

ABC3 Children will be one of a suite of 15 digital terrestrial channels that will make up the Freeview digital TV platform when it launches here next month.