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Originally published August 15, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified August 15, 2007 at 2:07 AM

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Disney: UW news release "grossly unfair"

The Walt Disney Co. isn't happy about a recent University of Washington news release summing up a study on baby videos and language development...

Seattle Times staff reporter

The Walt Disney Co. isn't happy about a recent University of Washington news release summing up a study on baby videos and language development, and its chief executive is demanding a retraction.

In a letter dated Monday, Robert Iger, Disney's president and chief executive officer, wrote to UW President Mark Emmert expressing dissatisfaction with a university news release sent last week to news media with the title "Baby DVDs, videos may hinder, not help, infants' language development."

The release, intended to summarize the findings of a study conducted by researchers from the University of Washington and Seattle Children's Hospital Research Institute, prompted widespread news coverage on the subject.

But Iger said the news release "blatantly misrepresented what the study was about," and was "grossly unfair, extremely damaging, and, to be blunt, just plain wrong in every conceivable sense."

The news release stated "parents who want to give their infants a boost in learning language probably should limit the amount of time they expose their children to DVDs and videos such as 'Baby Einstein' and 'Brainy Baby.' "

It stated that rather than helping babies, watching such videos often may slow down vocabulary acquisition for some infants.

Baby Einstein is a subsidiary of Disney.

"For the University to issue a press release making reckless charges warning parents to avoid using Baby Einstein products ... is completely irresponsible," Iger said in his letter.

Iger asserted that parents in the study were asked to identify broad categories, such as "Baby DVDs/Videos," not necessarily a particular brand like "Baby Einstein."

The study, titled "Associations Between Media Viewing and Language Development in Children Under Age 2 Years," was published in the Journal of Pediatrics.

Iger asked the university to retract the news release and pull it from the Web site.

Emmert said he spoke to Iger on the phone Monday, and Iger requested that the university find out if the news release was consistent with the findings of the study.

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"I told them I had, in fact, asked for that to be done," Emmert said.

Emmert said he would be surprised if he finds there was not "appropriate accord" between the news release and the original study.

"I have great confidence in our media staff," he said.

Robert Roseth, director of news and information at the UW, said the news release was approved by the study author before it was issued to the news media.

Christina Siderius: csiderius@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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