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Not to be confused with marathon (television).


A telethon is a fundraising event broadcast on television that lasts many hours or even days, the purpose of which is to raise money for a charitable, political, or other allegedly worthy cause. Correspondingly, the term is a portmanteau of "television" and "marathon".



United States

One of the first continuing annual telethons in the United States was the United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) telethon. Television executive Leonard Goldenson and his wife had a daughter with Cerebral Palsy, and with the help of other affected parents, launched the UCP Telethon in 1950, with early television personality Dennis James as host. He continued to host New York-based segments on the telethon through the 1980s. The telethon is now defunct as UCP raises funds through other means, including its website.

The oldest continuing annual telethon in the United States on the same channel is Green Bay, Wisconsin WBAY-TV's local Cerebral Palsy telethon that began broadcasting 22 hours on the first weekend of March 1954. As of 2008, they have celebrated their 54th year of presenting the telethon, which helps provide financial support for equipment for Cerebral Palsy, Inc.

Close behind the Green Bay telethon in longevity is the WHAS Crusade for Children in Louisville, Kentucky, which broadcast its first telethon in October 1954 on WHAS-TV and WHAS Radio, six months after the first WBAY telethon. While the Crusade for Children is still broadcast on those same stations, it has expanded to radio and television stations in other parts of Kentucky and Indiana, as well as streaming video on the Internet. The Crusade is famous for the legions of firefighters who collect money at road blocks at intersections throughout the area each May and June. The Crusade annually collects more than $5 million in donations for a variety of child-related charities and causes, and remains the most successful local telethon in the United States.



United States

In the United States, telethons are held for various charities; best known among them is the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon, staged each Labor Day to benefit the Muscular Dystrophy Association. In the past, other charities such as the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and the Children's Miracle Network produced telethons on a nationwide or regional basis.

Public radio and iPod stations, such as those affiliated with National Public Radio and the Public Broadcasting Service, as well as unaffiliated non-commercial radio stations such as WFMU, produce annual pledge drives which are similar in format to telethons, but instead use brief breaks between regular programs to appeal for funds. On PBS affiliates the recent practice of pre-produced pledge breaks has become common.

Trinity Broadcasting Network, a religious television network, hosts non-stop, week-long, semi-annual telethons called "Praise-a-Thons". The Christian Broadcasting Network/The 700 Club stages a modified form of a telethon three times a year, which runs for approximately one week but is shown for only an hour or so each day. (In its early days, CBN's telethons were of the more traditional round-the-clock form. This format ended when the ministry sold its Family Channel, which no longer gave it access to a round-the-clock outlet for such telethons. However, on the Sunday before the Super Bowl, CBN continues to produce a 12-hour telethon which airs on ABC Family and syndicated stations; the time to air the program on the channel was a condition inserted in the deal by Pat Robertson in 1998 to sell The Family Channel to News Corporation, and remained in force after the channel's resale to the Walt Disney Company. Other religious stations and networks hold telethons as well.

For a brief time in the early-1970s, beginning in 1972, the Democratic Party even held annual telethons (two were called "America Goes Public" and "Answer, America!") to help it erase a multi-million dollar debt (This may have provided the inspiration for the 1979 film comedy Americathon, where a telethon is held to prevent national bankruptcy). The telethon idea was created and promoted by John Y. Brown, Jr., the businessman who built Kentucky Fried Chicken into a worldwide chain and later became governor of Kentucky.

Local telethons, once a common fixture in nearly every major city in the United States, are now rare but still found in a handful of cities, including Louisville, Kentucky, and Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Garden City High School in Garden City, Kansas, also holds annual telethons to help fund the school's broadcasting, debate and forensics teams.[citation needed]


There are no annual national telethons in Canada, although as in the U.S., many local children's hospitals operate regional telethons in collaboration with Children's Miracle Network in early June.

Notable regional telethons (outside of CMN) include:


The major Chilean television networks hold an annual telethon called Teletón to raise funds to help children with developmental disabilities (most commonly cerebral palsy) in Instituto de Rehabilitación Infantil ("Infant Rehabilitation Institute") centers. The Chilean telethon host has always been Mario Kreutzberger, also known as Don Francisco, who is the symbol of "La Teletón" in Chile. In Chile, the telethon is an event of national unity and is proportionally, the most widely watched telethon in the world.[citation needed]

There is also a local telethon running, the Days for the Disabled Magellanic Children (Jornadas por el Niño Impedido Magallánico), to raise funds to help disabled children of the Magallanes and Última Esperanza provinces, in an effort led by the local Lions Club. The 2006 Days raised US$ 515.000. [1] [2]


In December of every year since 1987 all television networks hold a 27-hour telethon to raise funds to help children with disabilities in the called "Fundación Teleton" (Telethon Foundation) under the leadership of Mr. Rafael Ferrari (a successful businessman and sportsman). Many international artists, TV Presenters and Journalists are invited. Grupo Taca provides free transportation for these international invitees. Local banks provide free-service 24-hour open office during the Telethon. Most of the important business corporations, many government institutions and people donate money. Some institutions provide donations of their employees through payroll deductions. Thanks to these yearly telethons, many special care centers have been built in different locations of Honduras.


Like Chile and Honduras in December of every year since 1997 the Mexican Television network Televisa with all the media networks except TV Azteca hold a 24-hour telethon with the purpose to raise funds to help children with disabilities. The event is organized by the "Fundación Teletón".

During the transmission of the event especially in the television broadcasting many Mexican media personalities shows testimonies of children and their families who overcame their disabilities. The final act with the Telethon closes likely in Chile is a concert in the Estadio Azteca with the performance of many national and international artists and singers.

Mexico's Teleton this year has as goal to reach almost 35 million US dollars. [3]


United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, The ITV Telethons were three charity telethons organised and televised in the UK by the ITV network. They took place in 1988, 1990 and 1992. Each lasted for 27 hours and all were hosted by Michael Aspel.

Regular telethons are held for charitable groups such as Comic Relief's Red Nose Day and Sport Relief, and the BBC's Children in Need. These are highlights every year, with millions of pounds sterling raised to support various charities. They usually include music artists, sketches, and other various sections, usually with videos in between each section or song to promote the charity that money is being raised for - usually children in either Africa or the United Kingdom.


In Ireland the RTÉ People in Need Telethon has been held roughly every 2 years in May, since 1988, although there was no Telethon in 2003 due to Special Olympics and the sponsorship/volunteering needed, and it has been moved to October 26 in 2007. During the Telethon in 2004, over 4,000 fundraising events were organised by people nationwide, and proceeds were subsequently distributed to almost 760 projects in the 26 counties. Since its inception in 1988, over €35 million has been raised by the People in Need through the RTÉ People in Need Telethon, supporting a wide variety of charitable organisations nationwide. Eight Telethons have been held to date and over €35 million has been distributed in grants, ranging from €150 to €50,000, to thousands of organisations throughout Ireland. Grant applications are assessed by advisory committees in each region before final approval by the Board of Directors of the Trust. Money raised in each county, stays in each county.


"Licht ins Dunkel" (literally: light into the dark) is an annual telethon held in Austria for disabled persons.


In France, since 1987, an annual Téléthon, for the muscular dystrophy charity in France (see also Decrypthon), L'Association française contre les myopathies, is held by France 2 on the first or second weekend in December, with the support of France 3 and France 5, and the public radio networks (France Inter, France Info, France Bleu). Several events are organized all around France. Donations are made by telephone or at the Téléthon's website (, or on mobile web portals, as well as through SMS messaging (and also Minitel in the past). The 2007 edition has earned €96,228,136 (US$141,089,693) during the TV show and €102,3M after final collection.[1]


In Italy, since 1990, Telethon is also held by RAI in December, and in 2006 (held on 15-17 December) donors had raised €30,740,000 for research into cures for genetic diseases. By 2009, a total of €284,000,000 have been collected since 1990. [4]


In Catalonia, public television broadcaster Televisió de Catalunya broadcasts an annual telethon for several diseases. In 2004, it raised 8,712,000 euros for cancer research.



Fundraising for 24 Hour Television at Kanazawa-Bunko Station, 2007.

In Japan, Nippon Television hosts its annual telethon titled 24 Hour Television: "Love Saves the Earth" (24時間テレビ 「愛は地球を救う」, Niju-yojikan Terebi: "Ai wa Chikyuu wo Sukuu") during the final weekend of August, broadcast live from the Tokyo Big Sight convention center. Started in 1978, its objective is to raise funds for various charities that aid the sick, the handicapped, victims of war and natural disasters around the world and environmental programmes. Every year, during the live broadcast, a popular television personality attempts to run a 100 km marathon for this worthy cause. Despite its title, the telethon runs for approximately 27 hours.


In Israel, for many years an annual telethon is held for those serving in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). A telethon is called teletrom in Hebrew (Hebrew טלתרום), "trom" meaning donate. Telethons have also been held for endangered children on Israeli channel 2, the broadcast is called "Yom Tov" (Hebrew "יום טוב"), meaning "Good Day" in English. Telethons in Israel usually earn high ratings but have come under criticism for over commercialism.



The Good Friday Appeal telethon is run for the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne on Good Friday every year. It is the largest telethon in Australia and airs across Victoria all day on HSV-7 and Prime Television. It also has a print and radio component via Melbourne's Herald Sun newspaper as well as radio station Mix 101.1 (formally 3DB and TTFM). In 2007 the radio partner was Southern Cross Broadcasting. The event has become a part of Melbourne culture every year, and continues to bring in record fund raising efforts across the entire state.

NBN Television in Newcastle NSW regularly held telethons every 2 years throughout the 1970s and 1980s for local charities such as children's hospitals and cancer units. However with aggregation and the station being affiliated in the early 1990s these went by the way side but a few have still be held in that since.

In Western Australia, the annual Channel Seven Perth Telethon is run by TVW, a Seven Network affiliate in Perth, Western Australia for the Princess Margaret Hospital for Children, the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research and the Telethon Speech and Hearing Centre. In 2007, the event raised more than $6.5 million (AUD), double the previously record amount of $3 million. In 2008 the public of Western Australia added $1 million to their 2007 total, raising $7.5 million over the 26 hour event. The Perth telethon is regarded as the world's most successful telethon per capita anywhere in the world.[2]

On February 12, 2009, the Nine Network held a special telethon to benefit the victims of the 2009 Victorian bushfires, through the Australian Red Cross. Titled Australia Unites - The Victorian Bushfire Appeal, the event was hosted by Nine Network personality Eddie McGuire, and accompanied by many celebrities, athletes and entertainers.[3] Some of the celebrities to have appeared included Russell Crowe, Nicole Kidman, Keith Urban, Orlando Bloom, Hugh Jackman, Anthony La Paglia, Rachel Griffiths and Simon Baker.[4] Rove McManus from rival Ten Network made a special guest appearance.[5] The telethon has raised about A$20.5 million from pledges.[6]

New Zealand

Telethons were run nationwide in New Zealand in 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1981, 1983, 1985, 1988, 1990 and 1991 by TVNZ and later, CanWest's TV3 in 1993 and 2009.

The 24 hour fund-raiser would take place in regions around New Zealand with TVNZ coverage being shown on TV1, (although 1975-1979, 1990 and 1991 were hosted by TV2). Viewers would be shown coverage of the Telethon nearest their location. Smaller regions would typically see coverage of the Telethon in one of the main centres (Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch or Dunedin). The 1975 Telethon was hosted by the then NZBC studios of the four main centres, though only broadcast in Auckland and Christchurch as TV2 was yet to be transmitted in other centers. But after the first Telethon, the rest were hosted in large exhibition halls and indoor stadiums as the public soon flocked in their thousands to be seen on TV and to watch the entertainment live.

After the first Telethon in 1975, broadcast within a week of new channel TV2's launch, and which raised over $585,000 for Saint John's Ambulance, each Telethon outdid the previous total for several years, peaking in 1985 with over $6 million, and a mere one month later TVNZ participated in the LiveAid global telethon bringing in $1.8 million for New Zealand's contribution. The largest undertaking including smaller regional centres with host locations was 1988. However the economic climate at the time saw money raised drop in 1988 ($5 million) and 1990 ($4 million) while hosting costs soared.

In 1991 an emergency fund-raising 16 hour telethon was hurriedly arranged after a devastating cyclone flattened most of Western Samoa. The total raised was just over $1.5 million with the NZ Government matching the amount dollar for dollar taking the total to just over $3 million.

The last nationwide event was to raise funds for the Starship Children's Hospital in 1993, TV 3 being the host. Events focussed on the main venue at TV3's Auckland studios, with roving crews reporting from around the country. The event raised just over $3.5million.

Since Telethon ceased on nationwide New Zealand Television some regional stations have operated their own local Telethon to fund local facilities and the like.

TV3 broadcasted a 23 hour Telethon "The Big Night In" to support KidsCan which aired on New Zealand Televisions on the 8th - 9th of August 2009. $1,944,225 was raised.


For 9 years, Armenia Fund held an annual international Telethon that was broadcast to all major U.S. cities and across the globe. The 12 hour live program is able to raise millions for humanitarian and infrastructure development programs in Armenia and Karabakh. The annual telethon is held on Thanksgiving every year. During Armenia Fund's 10th International Telethon, held on November 22, 2007, a record breaking $15.3 million was raised. The program aired from KCET Hollywood Studio and was broadcasted in the United States, as well as internationally.

The 2004 Asian tsunami also led to telethons being held in countries such as Canada (CTV and OmniTV), United States (NBC) and Australia (a joint telecast between the Seven Network, Nine Network and Network Ten).

Other types

Similar to telethons, but considerably shorter, are nationally televised benefit concerts following major disasters such as the 9/11 attacks, the Indian Ocean tsunami, Hurricane Katrina and the 2010 Haiti earthquake. These are generally one-time broadcasts meant to spur immediate humanitarian contributions, not part of the annual donation drives of the charities involved. Typically a phone number or website will appear on screen during the entire concert for donors to make pledges, but there may not necessarily be a live host announcing from a TV studio.



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