No shortage of breadth

World mobilizes for Live Earth

International broadcasters, environmental activists and some of the biggest names in pop music are in the starting blocks for one of the most ambitious global media events of all time.

On Saturday, more than 150 acts — including such marquee names as Madonna, the Police, Bon Jovi and Black Eyed Peas — will perform at the Live Earth series of benefit concerts in support of a greener planet.

The event, organized by Kevin Wall and Harvey Goldsmith — the producers behind Bob Geldof's 2005 anti-poverty event, Live 8 — is looking to reach 2 billion people in more than 120 countries.

The concerts will be held in the New York area; London; Sydney; Tokyo; Shanghai; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Johannesburg, South Africa; and Hamburg, Germany. Inuit band Nunatak will even play a concert direct from Antarctica.

Former Vice President Al Gore and his organization, the Alliance for Climate Protection, are the green driving force behind the phenomenon, which also will include more than 6,000 local Live Earth events, from home-viewing parties to big open-air gatherings, linked via satellite.

Some of the world's biggest broadcasters are on board to carry the concerts live, including NBC Universal TV and Internet brands in the U.S., the BBC in Britain, NHK and Fuji TV in Japan and Pro7 in Germany. But while media attention is growing in such countries as the U.S. and the U.K., Live Earth has virtually no media footprint in nations including China or Turkey, where environmental issues are less front-and-center.

David Li, a tech-savvy 24-year-old working for a global computer manufacturer in Shanghai, said he heard about Live Earth but was unaware of the local riverside concert featuring some of the biggest names in Chinese pop.

"I definitely was not expecting it to be in a place like Shanghai, the pollution capital of the world," Li said. "Global warming is a controversial topic in China, and the biggest challenge is to convince people that the benefit outweighs economic sacrifices."

In Turkey, a Live Earth concert in Istanbul was canceled at the last minute because of lack of support from the government and tepid interest from sponsors, organizers said.

Not so in Britain, where the participation of the BBC should ensure maximum viewing and listening impact from the Beeb's global network. Live coverage from the British concert is lined up to air on BBC1 and BBC2, with the Beeb's two main radio outlets, BBC Radio 1 and Radio 2, also mixing live and packaged coverage. The broadcaster also has pledged coverage on its BBC World Service, which is available around the globe.

Gore and company have struck deals with the BBC and key talent including Jonathan Ross, Graham Norton and Edith Bowman to host coverage.

The London concert at Wembley Stadium is expected to attract more than 150,000 lucky ticketholders who shelled out £55 ($110) to see performances from acts including Madonna, Red Hot Chili Peppers, James Blunt, Foo Fighters and Snow Patrol.

Proceeds from all the Live Earth concerts will go to the Alliance for Climate Protection, chaired by Gore.

In Germany, the Hamburg concert will be broadcast live by Pro7, which will follow it with the German free-TV premiere of Gore's Oscar-winning documentary "An Inconvenient Truth." Pro7 also is programming a series of environmental awareness shows produced by its daily science magazine show Galileo.

"We have a very young audience demographic, and we feel the message of global warming is one we have to and want to make our audience aware of," said Petra Fink, head of communications at Pro7. "The Live Earth concerts are an ideal way of raising awareness to the worldwide problem of global warming."

Across the globe, local stars have signed on to host the Live Earth events. Names include former Olympic champions Ian Thorpe and Katarina Witt, who will host for Fox8 in Australia and Pro7 in Germany, respectively.

In Japan, which will be the only country to host two Live Earth concerts — in Tokyo and Kyoto — interest is high. Local organizers expect both concerts to sell out.

"This has all been very easy to organize and promote because so many people are interested in taking part and attending," said Akemi Sano, of the Live Earth Japan office.

Gore, who is planning to attend the U.S. concert at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., will ask all participants and viewers of the Live Earth concerts to sign a "7 Point Pledge" calling for action on climate change.

The pledge includes demanding local politicians sign an international treaty to cut global warming pollutants by 90% in developed countries and by more than half worldwide by 2050. Other points include a call for a moratorium on the building of new coal-burning plants and that signatories take "personal action to reduce carbon dioxide output."

Richard Trombly in Shanghai, Pip Bulbeck in Sydney and Julian Ryall in Tokyo contributed to this report.
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