ABC news announced that it will launch a yearlong project in December to focus attention on the diseases and health conditions that disproportionately afflict the world’s poorest people. The project has backing from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
“Be the Change: Save a Life” is the overall title for the series of reports which will run throughout 2011 after the kick off in December 2010. Led by “World News” anchor Diane Sawyer and ABC News Chief Health and Medical Editor Dr. Richard Besser, the network said the series will include reporting from all ABC News anchors across all broadcasts and platforms.
ABC News said it will invest more than $4.5 million in the series, covering personnel and production. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is providing a $1.5 million grant that will specifically help fund overseas travel and foreign production costs. ABC News insists that it has complete editorial control over the content of the series.
“We are, as always, committed to in-depth reporting on the global issues that matter to our audience – and health is a topic that touches every human being in the world,” said ABC News President David Westin, who coincidentally is leaving shortly after the series makes its debut.
Westin offered this explanation for the outside funding of the news series: “Support from the Gates Foundation will help us, literally, go that extra mile; we can cover the stories that ABC News is passionate about, stories that will connect our American audience with the struggles and solutions of families and doctors all over the planet, from Africa to South America to Asia. And, even more important, we can offer people the opportunity to get involved and truly save a life.”
Sawyer is enthusiastic about the project. “When I arrived at World News, one of our conversations was about focusing attention on global health, and what works, particularly for children around the world. We have a bulging folder of ideas and reports on what can be accomplished, often with little or no money,” she said.