Golf Gets Nod Over MDA Telethon


BOSTON (AP) -- Television stations in some areas of the country plan to air a PGA tournament instead of the Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon's final hours, a time telethon organizers say is crucial to their fund-raising.
ABC-TV plans to broadcast the Deustsche Bank Championship at the Tournament Players Club of Boston in Norton, Mass., from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Labor Day. That essentially coincides with the final hours of the 21-plus-hour telethon, which has been a Labor Day fixture for decades.
'We're unhappy that they're doing that and it may have a slight impact, but we're trying to minimize it as much as possible,' said Bob Mackle, director of public information for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.
Mackle said the telethon, which raises money to help people with neuromuscular diseases, is broadcast on what the MDA calls the 'Love Network,' about 200 stations nationwide, with a variety of network affiliations.
According to a list of 'Love Network' stations posted on the MDA's Web site, more than 50 of the stations that will broadcast the telethon are ABC affiliates.
Mark Mandel, vice president of media relations at ABC Sports, said the network would air frequent public service announcements within the golf show about the telethon and local stations would be able to cut in with telethon updates.
'We have in the television business come to understand that there's always going to be conflicts that we wish we can rectify to everyone's satisfaction,' he said. 'We tried here. We hope the measures we're taking will help offset any problems.
'This is life in the 21st century,' he said. 'There's conflicts for everyone's time and attention on TV and elsewhere.'
He said the numbers could change, but as of Friday, more than 90 percent of the network's 200 affiliates were going to run the golf.
Ana Leaird, a spokeswoman for the PGA Tour, pointed to the public service announcements and cut-ins and said, 'We were aware of their (the MDA's) concerns and we feel we've been responsive.'
Mackle said the MDA - and Jerry Lewis personally - had tried, but failed to persuade ABC-TV and PGA not to schedule the tournament broadcast during the telethon, which is in its 38th year.
The telethon, which typically has 60 million viewers, raised $58.3 million last year, and the last few hours are a 'crucial time' in which 'several million dollars' comes pouring in, Mackle said.
Mackle said the MDA was hoping the curtailment of a few hours on some stations wouldn't crimp donations. He also said some ABC stations were planning to carry the telethon in spite of the network golf program, but he didn't know how many.
In some areas, Mackle said, the MDA was making arrangements for an alternative channel locally to show the telethon. He also said most cable systems offer channels, such as superstation WGN, where the telethon will also be running.
He also pointed out that people can watch the telethon online and that some people are loyal contributors who give every year and may not even need the stimulus of the last few hours of the TV program.
'We're hoping that a lot of those people will still realize, 'Hey, it's Labor Day,' and make a donation,' he said.
'We're going to do the best we can this year and hope it doesn't affect us too much and hope that next year they'll change their minds and change their schedule and we'll be back to the way things have always been,' he said.
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