The Big Three television networks — NBC, CBS and ABC — have never done anything like it before. On Friday, Sept. 5, their news anchors — Brian Williams, Katie Couric and Charles Gibson, respectively — will sit on one set for a commercial-free, prime-time simulcast entitled “Stand Up to Cancer.”
The extraordinary broadcast is for a cause that the networks believe worthy of such an unprecedented collaboration — the fight against cancer. It was announced Wednesday morning on TODAY by Williams, Couric and Gibson, who also appeared live on ABC’s “Good Morning America” and CBS’s “The Early Show.”
It was Couric’s first live appearance on TODAY, the show she co-anchored for 15 years, since taking over as the CBS Evening News anchor two years ago.
“I’m ba-ack,” Couric joked, imitating Jack Nicholson in “The Shining.” “I’m so happy to see everyone; I miss everyone,” she added. “It’s really fun to be back.”
Williams noted that the Big Three had previously cooperated on shows after the Sept. 11 attacks, the 2004 tsunami and Hurricane Katrina, but “Stand Up to Cancer” is different because it’s not in reaction to a natural disaster but a planned cooperative assault on a common enemy.
The inspiration, Couric said, “is to do something for the common good, to set aside our competitive differences … It didn’t come on the heels of a natural disaster. It came for a really important cause.”
The special broadcast will feature live performances by legendary recording artists and stars from film and television, as well as filmed features that will give viewers insight into cancer. Various screening tests will be demonstrated in novel and entertaining ways. “Katie, Charlie and Brian will report on potentially life-saving research, speaking with both patients and scientists. We hope to entertain you, educate you, move and inspire you,” said movie and television producer Laura Ziskin, who will produce the special.
Viewers will be able to contribute to the cause in several ways, including the opportunity to “buy” a star for one dollar in honor of anyone who has ever been diagnosed with cancer, Gibson said.
Stand Up to Cancer is a new initiative that will raise money and sponsor innovative approaches to fighting cancer. It was launched Wednesday and is designed to eliminate barriers that have traditionally inhibited creativity and collaboration by enabling the best and brightest investigators from leading institutions across the country and the world to work together. These collaborative “Dream Teams” will pursue the most promising research, accelerating the discovery of new therapies for cancer patients and advancing efforts in cancer prevention research.
All three networks have a deep and personal interest in fighting cancer. NBC Universal President and CEO Jeff Zucker, himself a cancer survivor, said, “We’ve gone to the moon and pioneered a technology that revolutionized the way the world communicates. Applying that same innovation and commitment, scientists are on the cusp of making enormous strides in their efforts to combat cancer, but they need additional funding to do that. Through ‘Stand Up to Cancer,’ and the Sept. 5 broadcast, people all over the country can help.”
“Not only has cancer touched all of our media organizations in profound ways, but it has touched each of us personally. This extraordinary broadcast will serve a number of purposes — we’ll share vital information with our viewers and hopefully raise funds that are so critical in the fight against this insidious disease,” said “Nightly News” anchor Williams.
“The statistics are staggering,” Gibson said. “Cancer claims one person every minute of every day in the United States. Every year in this country, it takes the lives of more than half a million people … worldwide, cancer kills more than 6 million people annually. There has been progress on both the research and awareness fronts; as a result, there are over 10 million cancer survivors in the U.S. today. More work urgently needs to be done so that more people will survive.”
Riling people up
“For people struggling with this disease, or those who will be diagnosed, scientific breakthroughs can be a matter of life or death — literally. We want everyone to know that they can make a difference in this fight,” said Couric. “Television is a notoriously competitive business. For the three major broadcast networks to join forces is a wonderful example of the power of working together, and we’re very grateful to have the opportunity to reach people all over the country through this show.”
Ziskin, whose credits include the “Spider-Man” movies, “As Good As It Gets” and “Pretty Woman,” as well as two Academy Awards shows, is also a cancer survivor.
“As a motion picture and television producer, I’ve learned how incredibly powerful these mediums can be in generating public discourse, sometimes almost overnight,” Ziskin said. “Our goal with this initiative and TV show is to ‘tip’ the conversation in this country about cancer — to get people riled up, so they want to do something about the fact that it still takes so many lives.”
Stand Up to Cancer is a program of the Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF), a charitable organization established by a group of media, entertainment and philanthropic leaders whose lives have all been affected by cancer in significant ways. Among the initiatives to be funded will be some high-risk, high-impact cancer research proposals, which are often not supported by traditional funding sources.
The projects will be directed by the American Association for Cancer Research under the direction of an advisory committee headed by Nobel Laureate Phillip A. Sharp, Ph.D., of MIT.
Major League Baseball was the first donor to contributetoStand Up to Cancer. “This initiative has presented an historic and unique plan to fight this deadly disease, and it is a privilege for me and Major League Baseball to join this magnificent effort,” said Baseball Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig. “We have pledged many of our valuable resources in an attempt to assist in every way we can.”
Many other leading organizations have joined in supporting its mission, including AARP, Alliance for Global Good, AOL, Condé Nast Media Group, Def Jam Recordings, Lee Jeans, The Paley Center for Media, Philips, Playphone, Revlon, Ronald Perelman, Saks Fifth Avenue, Stonyfield Farm, and Steve Tisch, as well as media partners Hearst Magazines, Los Angeles Times, The Meredith Publishing Group, The New York Times and Time Inc.
Cancer advocacy and support groups collaborating with Stand Up to Cancer include The Lance Armstrong Foundation, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, Breastcancer.org, C-Change, CancerCare, Colon Cancer Alliance, C3: Colorectal Cancer Coalition, Friends of Cancer Research, Intercultural Cancer Council, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Lung Cancer Alliance, The Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation, National Breast Cancer Coalition, National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship, Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, The Prostate Cancer Foundation, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, The Wellness Community and others.
More information about Stand Up to Cancer is available at standup2cancer.org.