Tomorrow night's (Sept. 21) "America: A Tribute to Heroes" fund-raising telethon -- which will be bankrolled by the four major television networks and simulcast on more than 25 broadcast and cable net

Tomorrow night's (Sept. 21) "America: A Tribute to Heroes" fund-raising telethon -- which will be bankrolled by the four major television networks and simulcast on more than 25 broadcast and cable networks -- will benefit the United Way's September 11th Fund, according to the organization.

Established by the United Way and the New York Community Trust in the wake of last week's devastating terrorist attacks on the U.S., the fund has already drawn in millions of dollars from American companies, including a $10 million contribution from Microsoft, $5 million from IBM, and $1 million from Blockbuster, Inc.

As previously reported, "America" will feature myriad music, film, and television stars, including Stevie Wonder, George Clooney, Will Smith, Jim Carrey, Bruce Springsteen, Julia Roberts, Mariah Carey, Clint Eastwood, Sheryl Crow, and Jimmy Smits.

The show will be broadcast live on the East Coast from stages in New York and Los Angeles. There will be no live audience, and organizers refuse to say where the events will be held for security reasons. Staged by ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox, the show will be run by Joel Gallen, who has produced such events as the MTV Movie Awards.

"America: A Tribute to Heroes" will also be seen across the broadcast spectrum, on PBS, UPN, the WB, and Pax TV, as well as Spanish-language outlets Univision and the Telemundo network. Cable channels signed on include HBO, TNT, E!, Lifetime, Comedy Central, MTV, VH1, TNN, BET, BET Jazz, Fox Family, FX, Court TV, Discovery, TLC, Showtime, and the Sundance Channel.

Such cooperation across the television dial has little precedent. During World War II, the CBS and NBC radio networks produced a Christmas Eve 1942 entertainment special starring Jack Benny, Tommy Dorsey, and Judy Garland that was broadcast widely across the country, according to the Museum of Television and Radio. In 1953, the Ford Motor Co. produced a 50th anniversary show featuring Ethel Merman, Frank Sinatra, and Edward R. Murrow that was broadcast simultaneously on ABC, CBS, and NBC.

Although other cable networks may sign on, some have declined to participate.

The ESPN sports networks -- ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN Classic and ESPNews -- will stick with regular programming. "Sports has resumed and we're trying to get back to some degree of normalcy, putting it back in its proper context," spokesman Chris LaPlaca said.

Nickelodeon, which airs children's programming regularly through 10 p.m. on Fridays, and The Disney Channel are also not taking the telethon. "Our point of view has been and continues to be that Nick should be a safe haven for kids to see their normal entertainment programs," spokesman Dan Martinsen said.

CNN plans to show parts of the program, and Fox News Channel will cover it as a news event. MSNBC has not decided what to do. Although HBO is showing the telethon, its sister channel Cinemax is not.


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