KSCI joins tsunami relief effort

Jan. 03, 2005

KSCI joins tsunami relief effort

By Cynthia Littleton

KSCI-TV harnessed its platform as the nation’s leading Asian-themed
television station to mount a four-hour New Year’s Day telethon to
raise money to aid relief efforts for survivors of Southeast Asia’s
tsunami disaster.

Meanwhile, Australia’s three commercial television networks have put
aside their traditional rivalry and will hold a historic joint
national appeal Saturday to aid victims of the Asian tsunami
disaster. It is believed to be the first time the networks have joined
together to raise money for a cause. “No one can remember if it has
ever happened before,” a spokesperson for the Seven Network said.

The Seven, Nine and Ten networks will produce and simultaneously
broadcast “Australia Unites: The Tsunami Relief Event” live from
Sydney’s Opera House forecourt with top names in Australian
entertainment appearing free of charge, while the networks will
provide crews, telecast infrastructure and production resources.

The CEOs of the three nets — Seven’s David Leckie, Nine’s David
Gyngell and Ten’s John McAlpine — said in a joint statement, “Given
the magnitude of the tsunami disaster, it’s appropriate that the
Australian television industry gets together in a nonpartisan way to
raise a substantial amount of money for the victims of this tragedy.

In Southern California, Saturday’s 1-5 p.m. live broadcast from
KSCI’s studio in West Los Angeles reflected the depth and breadth of
the Asian population in Southern California. The telecast featured a
mix of Hollywood celebrities and local personalities and diplomats
from some of the most hard-hit countries — including Indonesia,
Thailand and Sri Lanka — discussing the crisis and appealing to
viewers to call in with pledges.

The death toll in the region, devastated Dec. 26 by a 9.0-magnitude
earthquake and resulting tsunamis, is projected to climb to at least
150,000, international aid agencies told the Associated Press on
Sunday.

Peter Mathes, chairman of KSCI parent AsianMedia Group, said the
station’s roughly 55 employees scrambled last week to line up guests
and talent for the four-hour telecast.

Launched in 1977, KSCI carries a range of Asian-themed programming in
14 languages, from Arabic to Tagalog. The telethon was presented in
English in an effort to reach the widest possible audience, Mathes
said.

“We talk to this community more than anyone else in the market,” said
Mathes, a broadcast TV veteran who joined AsianMedia in April. “We
felt it was the right thing to do. We could have had a lot more
(Hollywood) talent participating if we had waited a week, but it felt
like we needed to do something now.”

KSCI partnered with the Red Cross and international Christian relief
organization World Vision to process the pledges; viewers were given
the option of making donations through either organization.

Estimates of the total raised through Saturday’s telethon won’t be
available for about a week, Mathes said. Toward the end of the
telecast, the hosts reported receiving a few pledges for $1,000 and
one as high as $3,000. In 1988, KSCI produced a telethon that raised
$3 million for victims of the devastating earthquake in what was then
known as Soviet Armenia.

The primary hosts of Saturday’s telethon, Sheeraz Hasan, known to KSCI
viewers as host of the “Tinseltown TV” program on Hollywood and
Bollywood showbiz news, and his sidekick Zarina Ramzan, kept stressing
how survivors in the hardest-hit areas have few basic necessities and
that those conditions are sure to lead to more suffering through
communicable diseases and tainted water supplies.

“There’s no food, no water, no soap, no medicine,” Ramzan said. “They
do not have the basics.”

The two also noted that earthquake-prone Southern California with its
hundreds of miles of coastline is vulnerable to tsunami conditions.

The telecast drew the support of a handful of Hollywood celebrities,
including “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” star Marg Helgenberger and
her husband, actor Alan Rosenberg, Lou Diamond Phillips, Mindy
Sterling and cast members from ABC’s “General Hospital,” including
veterans Stuart Damon and Jackie Zeman.

Leila Feinstein, a news correspondent at KTLA-TV Los Angeles who is of
Thai descent, taped a segment offering her personal perspective on the
tragedy. KTLA also supported KSCI’s effort by running stories about
the telethon on its Friday morning and 10 p.m. newscasts, Mathes
said.

Among the most compelling moments of the telethon was a segment
featuring a Santa Monica couple who miraculously survived the
disastrous tsunami even though they were diving off the Thai coast
near the time that it hit.

Gene Kim and his wife, Faye Linda Wachs, spoke of the chilling scene
that greeted them at their beachfront resort as they returned from a
morning of deep-sea diving. Wachs described watching more and more
unusual debris — including refrigerators and other large items —
turning up on the roadside until they finally realized their hotel had
nearly been leveled and the beach was covered with bodies, piles of
rubble and rescuers frantically searching for survivors.

Jacqueline Lee Lewes in Sydney contributed to this report.

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