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Comic Relief: readers reply

Last week we asked for your verdict on the red-nosed high jinks of Comic Relief. Here are some of the replies ...
Peter Popham's attack on Comic Relief was riddled with inaccuracies: Comic Relief patently does not trade on the war against famine or images of starving babies; and it raised more, not less, money last year. His argument seems to be based on the spurious proposition that since millions of people spend time, energy and imagination backing the Red Nose, this somehow makes the charity inefficient.

It isn't. Mr Popham implied that Comic Relief enjoys a privileged position with the media. Not true, it earns it! Comic Relief and Red Nose Day have attracted millions of viewers, enjoy widespread acclaim and have succeeded in entertaining and educating a generation.

Long may they prosper!

Alan Yentob

Controller, BBC1

Comic Relief reaches the parts other agencies cannot reach - young people. Not only do they give their pocket money, but they unselfishly organise fund-raising events which "go beyond the rattling tin", expressing a sense of world citizenship.

Television news gives us a distorted view of Africa. Comic Relief films go beyond famine and wars. Last year's film of a poor family's reunion in Mozambique showed us our common humanity in the face of tragedy.

Sadly, Comic Relief is one of the few ways these messages are broadcast on primetime TV.

David Bryer

Director, Oxfam

The question is not whether you need Comic Relief but whether Chol does. He is a six-year-old boy living in Sudan. His people have been at war with the government in the north since before he was born and there is no prospect of it ending before he becomes a man. His generation would be wasted without education, but 200,000 children are now receiving education, even in the middle of war, with the support of Save the Children, funded by Comic Relief.

So put a sock (full of porridge) in it.

Mike Aaronson

Director-general, Save the Children

Peter Popham says Comic Relief is a "remarkably inefficient charity". It is an organisation of 37 people that makes a "profit" of over pounds 20m in one day's "trading", off-setting all direct costs to third parties. It then uses these profits to invest in the skills and capacities of vulnerable communities at home and in Africa.

In the interests of efficiency it decided against becoming operational and chose instead to fund the work of other trusted UK charities. Oxfam and Save the Children, which Mr Popham chose to set against Comic Relief in his piece, are its two single largest beneficiaries - over pounds 41m to date.

"The rich men" behind it, do no more than show a little compassion and a huge commitment to building bridges between the British public and some of the poorest people in society.

Jane Tewson

Chief executive, Comic Relief

Kevin Cahill

Comic Relief director

Do we need Comic Relief? No, of course not. If comedy is "the new rock 'n' roll", then Comic Relief can be compared to Take That - popular, yet, in the final analysis, culturally (and aesthetically) redundant.

Oscar Wilde was right to state that (and I paraphrase) charity demeans those who give and those who collect.

Carl Taylor


The analysis provided in your article failed to give any reason why we shouldn't support Comic Relief, other than that the author didn't think Red Nose Day was very funny.

You point out, quite rightly, that the amount of money raised by Comic Relief is a drop in the ocean. All charities only contribute drops in the ocean of need, but most people recognise that without such drops we are left with more homeless people, a few more starving in Africa, and a few more ignorant people and more articles asking the question "Do we need Comic Relief?"

The answer (sadly) is, of course we do.

Victor Adebowale

Chief executive, Centrepoint

Yes, we do need Comic Relief. Not necessarily for the jokes and silly fundraising activities but for the precious air-time that is devoted to stories of development in action overseas. If the plug is pulled on Comic Relief, even fewer people in the UK would have the opportunity to learn about what positive developments can take place in Africa and beyond their own front door.

Anne Palmer