WVTM Birmingham is in the middle of its Tornado Relief Telethon, which had raised around $190,000 toward tornado relief in the besieged area by mid-afternoon Wednesday. The Media General station has been talking up the telethon in cut-ins during programming since early this morning, will dedicate its 6:30-10 p.m. hours tonight to the fundraising effort, then will continue cut-ins past midnight.
The proceeds benefit United Way of Central Alabama.The WVTM website suggests multiple ways viewers in the market--and beyond--can help those affected by last week's tornadoes.
WVTM VP/General Manager Gene Kirkconnell says the commercial free telethon will be simulcast on over 200 stations, the bulk of them affiliated with the Christian-themed LegacyTV network, along with others in the Media General group, including WJAR Providence and WCMH Columbus, and some outside the group, such as KTKA Topeka. Some stations will air the event on their main channel, while some will present it on a multicast channel or website.
"It's been awesome, the way people have embraced it, and jumped on board," Kirkconnell says.
Over 300 were killed in multiple states due to last week's tornadoes, but no state was hit harder than Alabama.
The telethon is more about updating viewers on the region getting back on its feet in the past week, says Kirkconnell, than entertainment. But it's not without a little song and dance either; former American Idol star Bo Bice learned of the telethon while watching WVTM, and asked station executives how he could help. Bice will be both answering the phones at the NBC affiliate, and performing a bit as well.
Speakers include Alabama governor Robert Bentley and Tuscaloosa mayor Walt Maddox, and celebrated area sports coaches Nick Saban (U. Alabama football) and Gene Chizik (Auburn football).
Stations in Birmingham have worked on joint charity efforts before; in September 2009, Kirkconnell spearheaded a local effort that saw the main stations in DMA No. 40 work together on a Stand Up to Cancer benefit to coincide with the networks' own event.
New Vision's WIAT has been talking up WVTM's telethon on its air, and also offered up a satellite truck for the event. Kirkconnell says Al Roker plugged the telethon on Today Wednesday morning.
"It's been faith affirming--this industry is amazing," says Kirkconnell. "I just asked, and I was blown away by how many people said yes, count me in."