End Of An Era: MDA Telethon Moves To ABC


For the first time in more than 40 years, WWNY will not televise the telethon which benefits the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

The MDA announced it has entered into an exclusive partnership with the ABC Television Network to broadcast the telethon nationally this year.

It will be the first time in the telethon's 48 year history that it has aired on one network.

ABC will air the "MDA Show of Strength Telethon" from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Sunday, September 1.

The Labor Day weekend telethon aired on WWNY for 42 years with locally-produced segments featuring WWNY personalities and volunteers from the community.

"It's really part of the history of the station, part of the legacy of the station, so it's kind of hard to think of WWNY without thinking of the MDA telethon," said WWNY General Manager Cathy Pircsuk.

WWNY's Mel Busler and Cindy Habeeb hosted the local cutaways for decades.

"For me it's bittersweet. I've been a part of it since 1984 and to see it come to end on the station is sort of sad. I appreciate the help of all the volunteers over the years who helped make it a success. I'll miss seeing them," said Busler.

The news also came as a shock for people who worked behind the scenes.

"It had meaning. It helped people and it's one of those things you hate to see go," said Culley Gosier, who directed the local portions of the telethons for WWNY.

As part of the change, the telethon will have no local cutaways.

The televised fundraiser has undergone a series of dramatic changes in recent years.

Most notably, longtime host Jerry Lewis parted from MDA in 2011 and the telethon was no longer known as the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon.

In addition, the telethon aired for two full days until 2011 when it was shortened to a few hours.

In an email to general managers of non-ABC affiliates, MDA Executive Vice President Pete Morgan said of the ABC partnership, "This is an exciting development, one that will help to streamline our efforts in driving viewers and consistent messaging nationwide.  It's a logical step to partner with an established national television network, and ABC is a natural fit given that the majority of our Love Network stations were ABC affiliates."

Over its long history, the telethon has raised billions of dollars for the MDA.

Thursday, December 8, 2016
, Watertown, NY

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