American TV Networks come together for a common cause

It's all about the power of television. The four blind mice of American TV - ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC - are not scrapping with each other for morsels of the US advertising pie; rather they are getting together for a good cause this Friday: raising money for victims of the World Trade Centre and Pentagon terrorist blowups. The four networks are to jointly produce and simulcast a two-hour show called 'America: A Tribute to Heroes' from 9 pm to 11 pm (US Eastern Time; 6:30 am IST, Saturday).

With no ads, the programme will run simultaneously from New York and Los Angeles with the backing of Hollywood's most influential people like talent agent Ari Emanuel, music biz mover and shaker Jimmy Lovine and DreamWorks co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg. Production is in the able hands of Joel Gallin, who is behind such events such as the MTV Music Awards, though network executives are not claiming that they will come up with a gee-whiz event as it has been put together at a very short notice.

Several acts are supposed to turn up and do a gig. Among those who are expected to figure include: country music group Dixie Chicks, Bon Jovi, singers Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen, comic man Jim Carrey (The Truman Show), Hollywood hunk Tom Cruise (Mission Impossible), America's Sweetheart Julia Roberts, Amy Brennenman, George Clooney, Sheryl Crow, Cameron Diaz, Robert De Niro, Clint Eastwood, Calista Flockhart, Dennis Franz, Kelsey Grammer, Tom Hanks, Faith Hill, Billy Joel, Alicia Keys, Conan O'Brien, Tom Petty, Ray Romano, Paul Simon, Will Smith, Sela Ward, Robin Williams, Stevie Wonder and Neil Young. Other names are likely to mark their presence at the event.

The four networks have offered the program to WB Television Network and UPN Network as well as to cable channels. Even sports channel ESPN is doing its best to rearrange its program schedule to accommodate the show. Not wanting to lag behind the two largest radio broadcasters, Clear Channel Communications and CBS-owned Infinity Broadcasting Corp. are also trying to carry the program live on their stations.

The aim of 'America: A Tribute to Heroes' is to unite a nation and the whole world reeling from terrorist shock through the healing power of music. It also seeks to salute the selfless courage and soaring spirit of Americans despite the recent tragedies. Production costs will be met by the entertainment divisions of the networks. The show will be telecast live on the Internet.

It is not yet clear whether the networks will set up their own relief outfits or if they will give funds to existing groups. Viewers wanting to give money will be informed how they can contribute during the course of the show.

This effort on the part of the networks is to be lauded: they are losing between $30 million and $40 million in terms of advertising revenues every day because of the continuos coverage of the relief and rescue operations in New York and the Pentagon and cancellation of their money raking shows. NBC for example has stopped production for this week for its late night talk shows hosted by Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien.

In India, the show will likely air on CNBC and Star World, both of which have been carrying programming blocks of NBC and Fox News.

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