It’s Telethon time again. Alastair Mabbott gets



value for money.

_ I

Opting out

All the ITV regions are participating in Telethon 90, and if you haven’t pledged some of your money, they’re not going to let you forget it. Alastair Mabbott previews the epic event.

Surprisingly, Telethon 90 is only the second British event ofits kind. The first nationwide day-long charity TV event was in 1988, but what with the televisual bonanzas of Comic Relief, Live Aid and smaller-scale imitators, it seems already to have slipped in the back door of the national viewing consciousness. Perhaps the fact that the formula had already been popular in the USA for well over a decade helped. I

This year, ITV is devoting 27 hours to it, and ' Scottish Television will be providing 52 separate ‘opt-outs’ (that’s when viewers see only what‘s ' happening in their region usually a comedy skit, i a song or five guys in gorilla costumes handing over a cheque), each up to eight minutes long. So I the bulk of the programming. Michael Aspel holding court in the London Weekend nerve centre, will be broken up ‘for viewers in Scotland by local celebrities like Gregor Fisher, Tony Roper. Johnny Beattie, George Galloway, Molly Weir, Stephen Hendry, Mark McManus, Bill Paterson, Jesse Rae, Winnie Ewing, Glen Michael, Barbara Dickson, Dougie Donnelly and, in the absence of the cast of Bread, the stars of Take the High Road.

Ofthe £22 million raised in Britain in 1988, £22 million came from Scotland, and 521.6 million from Scottish Television’s catchment area: the highest amount per head of population of any region in the country. Scottish are planning a suitably big production this time around. Lanes off Hope Street and Renfrew Street are being closed off, and the studios themselves will be draped in some of the largest banners ever made in Scotland, with eight searchlights, each capable ofsending a beam a mile into the sky, in the car park. The newsroom will be running in relays from John O‘Groats to the Cowcaddens studios ' (team leader Bob Tomlinson trains Partick Thistle) and three keen cyclists from the sales department are leaving John O’Groats on a Wednesday 23, hoping to reach Land’s End and return to the studios by closedown.

A good few thousand are expected in the studio car park, but access to the hallowed ground of Studio One will be restricted. So the people you see filling up the studio on the night aren‘t just peOple who turned up after the pub with their harmonicas in their pockets they’ve been

lilo' "‘rr'?'r.¢{¥fz;’ I " ' 7:" Mu who”. aye. x -' ., p " .1;

“tilt/y;— .t t M'.

Tony Roper (left) goes into training for Telethon 90.

winnowed out from the throng, the criterion for entry usually being the size of their donation. The policy is along the lines of ‘If five guys come dressed as gorillas with a cheque for £20,000 we‘ll let them in. If a couple of guys come from the pub next door steaming, we won‘t.‘ Just like your average house party. really.

The money raised, the crux of the whole thing. will be split across four areas: projects for older people; people with disabilities and their carers; children and young people; and special needs in Central Scotland. Only after all the money is in. probably about a month after Telethon itself, will it be known exactly who‘s going to benefit. Even then, distribution is a long task. Money was still being distributed from the first Telethon in the summer of ‘89.

I called Scottish Television with half a mind to tell them the whole thing was mad. Who would sit in front oftheir screens for nineteen or twenty hours to see Stephen Hendry pot some charity shots in a five-minute slot'.’ Indeed, what cultural enrichment can one expect from 27 hours of charitable cheerleadering, no matter who‘s taking part? My call reached one (‘hris Bell. who tried to reassure me that that wasn‘t the point. In the fund-raising sphere, if not elsewhere. size is important.

‘Nobody sits down and watches a TV for 27 hours,‘ he told me, ‘but you find that a lot of people who see it on the telly get off their backsides and do something for it. That's the main reason for having it on for that length of time. because us continuously reminding people to donate money to it, or do something for it. You'd be surprised at the people who are watching it through the night and thinking. “Hang on a minute, I fancy doing something". You get all manner of people doing all manner of things for it. lfit was only on for a couple ol‘hours it would lose its effectiveness. Once it's off the screen your mind wanders off Telethon.‘

Maybe he shouldn‘t have said that. as it sparked offa train of thought that could revolutionise the democratic process in this country. Following the same principles. if'l'V election coverage started before the polls had actually opened. wouldn‘t more people be moved to go out and cast their vote'.’ Would a five~minute breakfast slot of Peter Snow conjuring up statistics that no one else would ever think were of any practical use whatsoever, on a computer that no one else could possibly work. play havoc with safe seats across the country? I think we should be told.

Telethon [990 runs/mm 7pm on Sun 3710 10pm on Mon .38.

The List 124—331 May 1990 79