Fox to Air Mandela Freedomfest Tribute

Times Staff Writer

In the tradition of Live Aid and Comic Relief, Fox Broadcasting Co. will join the crusade to raise social awareness through popular entertainment with Freedomfest--Nelson Mandela’s 70th Birthday Celebration--a live, all-star musical tribute to the South African human rights activist.

On June 11, Fox will join the British Broadcasting Co. and other broadcasting outlets reaching a total of 65 countries for Freedomfest, a six-hour concert featuring big-name performers from pop music, comedy and dance.

The participants, Fox said, will include Whoopi Goldberg, Phil Collins, Whitney Houston, the Alvin Ailey Dance Company, Miriam Makeba, Harry Belafonte, Dire Straits and Chubby Checker. Anti-apartheid activists including Bishop Desmond Tutu will also be in attendance.


The concert, being produced by London’s Elephant House Productions on behalf of Artists Against Apartheid and the Anti-Apartheid Movement, will be broadcast from Wembley Stadium in London and beamed live by satellite worldwide.

Although Freedomfest will not be a telethon-style fund-raising effort like “Live Aid,” which solicited money to fight African famine, the money raised from selling world broadcast rights will be distributed to organizations that oppose the South African government’s segregation policies--with half the money going to groups that help children who have suffered as a result of the anti-apartheid struggle, a Fox spokesman said.

The concert’s namesake, Mandela, is leader of the African National Congress and has been jailed in South Africa since 1964 for his opposition to apartheid. His wife, Winnie, also a prominent human rights activist, is not involved in the concert, a Fox spokesman said.

“The whole purpose of the concert is to make a statement that in this world, everyone should be free and equal,” said Jamie Kellner, president and chief operating officer of Fox Broadcasting.

“It’s a worldwide day to promote freedom. This is going to be the wildest music event of this year. Everything is just state of the art; they’re building the most enormous stage in Wembley Stadium, and a lot of major artists are considering going over. What happened with ‘Live Aid’ was, there was an momentum that built in the arts community as the event got closer. Suddenly, everybody wanted to go participate.”

Fox has obtained exclusive broadcast rights to the show in the United States from Radio Vision International, an American-based distributor responsible for worldwide broadcast of the event.