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Telethon Committee Coming Soon

The United Way plans to announce the formation of a steering committee this week that will determine how funds raised by the America: A Tribute to Heroes
telethon will be distributed to victims and family members affected by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, officials said last week.

Executives at ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC organized the telethon, which was simulcast on 35 broadcast and cable networks on Sept. 21. The networks selected the United Way to administer the Sept. 11 Telethon Fund and to distribute the money to charities.

The telethon generated $150 million in pledges from viewers who called in donations or visited a Web site, TributeToHeroes.org. But none of the money has been distributed to any victims or family members affected by the Sept. 11 attacks, United Way of New York spokeswoman Jeanette Brown said.

"You have to strike a balance between getting out funds quickly, but also understanding that there are long-term needs," Brown said.

Officials from CBS, NBC and Fox declined to comment last week on how or when the money raised from the telethon will be distributed. They referred all calls to Warner Bros. head of corporate communications Barbara Brogliatti, whom they said was selected as the sole spokesperson for the telethon.

Brogliatti, who volunteered her services, referred questions about how and when the funds will be distributed to the United Way. "This is not something that is going to be done overnight," she said. "You're talking about $150 million."

Brown said the September 11 Telethon Fund, which raised $150 million in pledges, is a "sub-fund" of a broader United Way Fund, called the September 11 Fund.

Both funds combined have raised $316 million in pledges. Of that sum, $89 million in cash and checks has been collected, Brown said.

Brown said $9.8 million from the September 11 fund has been distributed to various charities to date, including Safe Horizon, the Legal Aid Society, the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, Food for Survival and the New York Immigration Coalition. None of those funds came from the Telethon Fund, Brown added.

Brogliatti declined to say which network executives came up with the idea for the telethon, or who decided to select the United Way as the administrator for the fund. "They asked to remain anonymous," Brogliatti explained.

Members of the steering committee, which will determine how money from the Telethon Fund will be distributed, will include representatives or designates from the broadcast networks and community leaders, Brogliatti said.