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CBC preps for big tsunami benefit
TORONTO (CP) – Rehearsals and other feverish preparations continued Wednesday at the CBC broadcasting centre for Thursday night’s live telecast of Canada For Asia, a three-hour national benefit special to support relief efforts for the South Asian tsunami victims.
“It’s a madhouse and it’s wonderful,” said CBC spokeswoman Ruth-Ellen Soles. “It’s been political mayhem getting it together but we got it together,” added singer Tom Cochrane. “It’s precedent-setting, so this is history in the making.”
The CBC has assembled a who’s who of Canadian talent and a vast radio and TV network, having invited any interested private broadcasters to simulcast free of charge the program that will air from 7 to 10 p.m. local times.
In addition to CBC radio and TV, Newsworld, Country Canada and online at, the show will be carried on MuchMoreMusic, MTV Canada, CMT, the I Channel, Rogers Television’s 30 cable access outlets in Ontario, New Brunswick and Newfoundland, Canadian Forces radio and television serving troops in Kabul, Bosnia, the Golan Heights and the Sinai, as well as some ethnic TV channels and private radio networks and stations. CTV and Global Television have turned down the CBC offer, however, citing their own benefit efforts, including CTV’s concert telecast set for Jan. 29.
“It’s too bad,” said Cochrane, noting that the three major networks in Australia are co-operating on a similar undertaking. “But I understand. They have their own brand and this is a CBC-branded show and that’s a reality.”
Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson, who will also be part of the on-air talent, said “there are a lot of things going on,” but declined to suggest there’s any rivalry amongst the networks, noting he had also been interviewed on CTV.
“It’s just an example of the kind of unity that everybody’s felt in doing whatever they can,” he said.
Lifeson and Cochrane conceded that donor fatigue will set in eventually.
“It’s only natural that it will, there’s some other thing that will come along that will take our attention away from this,” said Lifeson.
But, he added, it will take a long time to reinstate stability in the disaster region and vast sums of money will still be needed.
CBC has devoted two of its large studios to the ambitious special and final rehearsals were under way Wednesday afternoon and were to continue Thursday morning. Lifeson said because of logistical problems, Rush and several of the other bands that will be seen Thursday night have had to pre-tape their musical segments.
Other scheduled musical guests include Celine Dion, The Tragically Hip, Anne Murray and Bryan Adams (who will perform a duo together), Blue Rodeo, Barenaked Ladies, Sam Roberts, Bruce Cockburn, David Usher and Chad Kroeger from Nickelback.
Cochrane said Shania Twain was in New Zealand and expressed her regrets but would be making a “sizeable” donation.
Non-musical celebrities to make appearances include Mike Myers, Wayne Gretzky, Eric McCormack, David Suzuki, Dave Thomas, Alex Trebek, members of the Kids in the Hall and Royal Canadian Air Farce comedy troupes and hurdler Perdita Felicien.
Suanne Kelman, acting chair of the school of journalism at Toronto’s Ryerson University, admitted to being a little uncomfortable with the way broadcasters and pop entertainers are rushing to get competing benefit concerts on the air and wondered if some of them aren’t just grandstanding.
“It’s like a charity ball. I don’t understand what you need the ball for.”
She said the public has already been very good about responding to the disaster with generous donations and no one should be surprised if old media rivalries haven’t been swept away by the common cause.
“Egos don’t get parked at the door.”
Kelman said there are two reasons why the public has been so taken with the tsunami disaster, apart from the obvious one that the TV news footage of the killer waves, garnered mostly from tourist camcorders, has been so dramatic. For one thing, she said, it is a natural event, with no one to blame, and secondly, unlike the Sudan, for example, a lot of Canadians have relatives in places like Sri Lanka and Somalia and many others have vacationed in the region’s hard-hit tourist zones.
Also, she added, the event seems ready-made for an overall sense of unease and even doom that people feel today about the shape of their planet, as reflected in such Hollywood disaster-themed entertainment as The Day After Tomorrow.
“People are deeply worried about our relationship with the natural world,” she said. “There’s the global warming issue, there’s fear of pandemics. This is the kind of thing we’re already sort of geared up for.”
She said many people seem poised almost fatalistically, waiting for for the great disaster that will punish us all.
“I’m not even sure for what, but there is this kind of fear that it’s out to get us.”
Proceeds collected from Canada For Asia will go to World Vision, the Canadian Red Cross, UNICEF, Oxfam Canada, Care Canada, Save the Children Canada and various community groups recognized by CIDA as bona fide recipients. Donors can call 1-866-334-ASIA or contribute online at