Tubbies in toddler ratings battle Tweenies declare war on Tubbies

A NEW gang of television characters is set to do battle with the Teletubbies for the affections of the nation's toddlers. The format of the BBC project, Tweenies, is secret, but it is understood the series will feature four clearly defined characters with whom the 3-5 year-old audience can identify.

The series is to start early next year and within months Jake, Fizz, Milo and Bella could be as popular with children as Tinky Winky, Dipsy, Laa-Laa and Po. It is thought the characters more closely resemble real children than the Teletubbies.

The BBC said the characters were similar to children in that they "play, learn and explore the world around them". A total of 260 episodes of the daily series have been commissioned by the BBC from independent programme maker Tell-Tale Productions.

BBC managers will hope the Tweenies catch the imagination of youngsters in the same way as the Teletubbies, who earned the corporation pounds 23m last year through overseas sales and merchandising. But Tubbyfans need not despair - the BBC says the Tweenies are in no way intended as a replacement for the Flab Four. "There is no chance of that. A new series of the Teletubbies will begin filming in the spring."