Marathon television show, almost always broadcast to raise money for a charitable cause. Can run anywhere from 24 hours to a week or more of combined Variety Show
and pointless filler
The first telethon, broadcast by NBC
in April 1949, was a fundraiser for the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation. (In fact, NBC executive Sylvester Weaver coined the word "telethon" — a portmanteau
of "television" and "marathon" — to describe the program, which was a radically different event that he hoped would entice people to buy TV sets.) The Foundation's first big fund-raiser, the telethon ran a then-unprecedented 16 hours with Milton Berle as its host, and raised $100,000. In all ways it was more or less indistinguishable from "modern" telethons, from the stars and celebrities who performed and urged donations, to the big on-screen bank of telephone operators taking calls.
Real life examples of Telethons:
- The most famous would be Jerry Lewis's Muscular Dystrophy Telethon.
- The most infamous might be pledge week on PBS.
- Britain has Comic Relief and Children in Need. One example of the latter had half of The BBC's news team dress up as Duran Duran and sing "Wild Boys". The most recent example involved a James Bond spoof with the entire team (and Roger Moore).
- Every October, Perth hosts the Australian Telethon (simply known as 'Telethon') to raise money for sick kids. And for the last 10 years it has exceeded the 1 million dollar mark, with the current record being 6.5mil last year.
- In Norway, this is done by the NRK, the Norwegian State Broadcaster, every October. The money goes to different good purposes each year, which is promoted weeks in advance. In addition to being a telethon, volunteers go door-to-door and ask for donations on the same day the telethon is held.
- Ever since The Seventies, Chilean public TV channels host the Chilean Telethon almost every December to donate for the "Sociedad de Ayuda al Niņo Lisiado" (roughly translated as "Crippled Children Aid Society"), raising money for crippled kids. This is said to be the inspiration for Jerry Lewis's Muscular Dystrophy Telethon; whether it was the case of not, it did doubtlessly inspire many other telethons across Latin America.
- ABC Family is required to air a CBN telethon every year the last Sunday in January; this was one of the sale conditions CBN owner Pat Robertson put in his contract to sell the network to Fox in the late 1990's, along with keeping three hours of ABC Family airtime per day.
- Once a Season the Non-Profit The Funday Pawpet Show holds a telethon/auction to raise money for creator Yappy's operating expenses and music licensing costs.
- New Zealand's TVNZ hosted eleven 24-hour telethons between 1975 and 1991, raising money for various charities, with the record being $6 million in 1985. TV 3 also hosted telethons in 1993 and 2009.
- Not technically a telethon, as it's not aired on television, but LoadingReadyRun holds "Desert Bus for Hope" every year to raise money for Child's Play.
Fictional examples of Telethons: