US television programs for very young children have been branded as the work of advertising devils.

A new two hour slot, Tickle U, for the 2-5 year age group on Time Warner's Cartoon Network is "the latest attempt to get young children in front of screens - which is exactly where marketers want them", warns Susan Linn of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.

However, the TV company claims the show, presented by "an adult with a kid's unlimited imagination and big heart" will "inspire kids to sing along, play and, most importantly, laugh with him and his characters".

Not so, counters the CCFC, which says young children don't need TV to help develop a sense of humor, adding: "This is a classic case of marketers trying to create a need where none exists and to dupe parents into thinking that watching more TV is good for their children."

Hands aloft in pious indignation, Cartoon Network insists its motives are entirely honorable and claims it has curbed marketing during the shows. It also says it has support for the Tickle U concept from child development experts.

Data sourced from AdAge (USA); additional content by WARC staff