'Idol Gives Back' raises at least $22 mil


Fox's "Idol Gives Back" telethon raised at least $22 million for charity Wednesday night, thanks to a combination of corporate sponsorship and donations from viewers who called in to the show and gave via AmericanIdol.com.

The event attracted a diverse group of artists, athletes, politicians and celebrities; everyone from Brad Pitt to Bono and from Annie Lennox to Eli Manning took part. The show was filmed Sunday night at the Kodak Theater at Hollywood & Highland.

Charities selected to benefit from "Idol Gives Back" this year include the Children's Defense Fund, the Global Fund, Make It Right, Malaria No More, Save the Children and the Children's Health Fund. Corporate sponsors included Fox network parent company News Corp., ExxonMobil, Allstate and Ford. In addition, Ryan Seacrest, Paula Abdul, Randy Jackson and Simon Cowell donated their salaries for the evening.

The $22 million figure was announced on air during the final hour of the 'Idol' broadcast, but is not the final sum. The total is expected to increase over the next few days as calculations continue; an updated figure is expected during Thursday's broadcast.

The evening's most stunning commitment of resources may have come from British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who announced that the country would provide funding for 20 million mosquito nets to be sent to Africa, at an estimated cost of $200 million. Despite rumors before the telethon that presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John McCain would make appearances, none participated in the show.

It was the second year for the event, which raised $76 million in 2007. "Idol" producers hope to hit $100 million this year, and the expanded opportunities for donating as part of this year's show should help them reach that goal.

Each performance from "Idol Gives Back" will be available for sale on iTunes, with all proceeds going to charity. Besides the chance to purchase highlights from the night, "Idol" fans were also lured to iTunes by free exclusive content, including a behind-the-scenes look at Alicia Keys' journey through three countries in Africa helping children with HIV and AIDS.

The spirit of giving will continue on tonight's broadcast of "American Idol," with Bono returning to give details on the ONE Campaign to fight poverty and AIDS.

Comedians including Sarah Silverman, Dane Cook, Rob Schneider and David Spade added some levity to the show. The line of the night, however, went to Jimmy Kimmel in noting Cowell's support for PETA: "Simon feels strongly the cruelty should be reserved to the contestants on this show."