"American Idol" will launch an ambitious poverty-relief campaign in April with a two-night spectacular that is slated to feature performances from Gwen Stefani, Pink and Sacha Baron Cohen as Borat.
Host Ryan Seacrest announced the details of "Idol Gives Back" on Thursday night's results show, in which the final 12 contestants were revealed (see " 'Idol' Final 12 Celebrate With Simon; Antonella And Sundance Head Home"). The April 24-25 episodes are aimed at raising awareness and funds for poverty-relief organizations helping children in the United States and Africa.
The first night will find the top six finalists on the show singing "life anthems" about hope and compassion, with show sponsors Coke and AT&T donating money to charity for every vote cast via phone or text message. The next night's show will feature the celebrity lineup, also slated to include Annie Lennox, Josh Groban, Michael Bublé and pop-classical group Il Divo, which was put together by "Idol" judge Simon Cowell. During that show, viewers will also be able to make donations through toll-free phone lines and on the Internet.
The money raised from the special programs will be split between organizations including the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, the Global Fund, Save the Children, Nothing but Nets and Malaria No More. In the United States, the money will be focused on organizations that deliver programs to some of the country's most disadvantaged children, while in Africa, funds will be used to provide health and education programs.
"Idol" creator and executive producer Simon Fuller explained in a press release that he was approached several years ago to create a new televised charity event by screenwriter/director Richard Curtis, who runs BBC TV's annual African famine relief event Red Nose Day, which has raised $820 million to date. "After lengthy discussions it occurred to me that we should use 'American Idol' as an existing platform to premiere this idea," Fuller said. "Thanks to the huge support of Fox and the enthusiasm and energy of [the show's producers and hosts], it has finally become a reality. Red Nose Day is an extraordinary institution and I am hoping that 'Idol Gives Back' is an enormous success, raising awareness and huge amounts of money for all these wonderfully deserving causes, and allowing us to continue to make these important, world-changing shows for many years to come."
Bono was also bullish on the prospects of raising money through the most popular television show in the U.S. "We'll see worlds collide when Africa appears on America's most-watched TV show," he said in a statement. "This is a big deal, a little bit of pop history. ... I wouldn't underestimate the reach of this show or the impact its audience can have."