MBC Plans Telethon for Hurricane-Damaged Town

Minority-owned cable channel Major Broadcasting Cable Network plans to air a six-hour telethon Sunday (Sept. 17) in support of Princeville, N.C., the first town in the nation founded by freed slaves.

The telethon comes one year and one day after a devastating flood that hit Princeville during Hurricane Floyd.

MBC hopes to raise $5 million to help the town rebuild, operation specialist Louis Perkins said.

Perkins saw the flood's damage firsthand last year while he was still a graduate student. Although he and fellow students lent their support in the weeks after the storm, they soon realized that there was no way a few regional schools alone could salvage the town. A telethon might make a difference, though, Perkins added.

The "Princeville 2000 Tele-thon" was spearheaded by American Airlines Inc. director of multicultural tourism development Lou Phillips, who brought the idea to MBC. In addition, American has promoted the telethon through two-minute public-service announcements on a number of its recent flights.

MBC currently has carriage in about 2 million cable homes. But Perkins said the network expected the telethon to be available to about 20 million homes. MBC is making the live feed available to any distributor that wants to carry it. More information is available at www.Princeville2000.com.

"We're airing the telethon to gain as much support and awareness for Princeville as possible," Perkins said.

Most cable operators in North Carolina have already agreed to air the telethon, Perkins said. Comcast/Charter Sports Southeast and American Independent Network have agreed to distribute the show, he added.

The telethon will be broadcast live from MBC's studio at its Atlanta headquarters. In addition to video footage of Princeville, the telethon will feature appearances from celebrities including Black Entertainment Television on-air host Tavis Smiley, rhythm-and-blues singer Howard Hewitt and boxer and MBC cofounder Evander Holyfield.

MBC was founded two years ago. Today, most of its carriage is in 12 smaller markets, Perkins said. He added that the network has corporate-affiliation agreements with Comcast Corp. and AT & T Broadband, and it is in talks with Time Warner Cable and Cox Communications Inc.

In addition to cable negotiations, MBC is working to get carriage at every historically black college in the United States, Perkins said. It is already available at Saint Augustine's College in North Carolina, and talks are under way with the University of the District of Columbia, he added.

The telethon will run from noon to 6 p.m.