Communications: Broadcasting - Get on TV and raise your

Once more it's time for BBC Children In Need, the daddy of TV charity appeals. It awarded £34m in grants in 2003/04 - this time it's hoping to smash the £17m raised on the same night last year. If you want to be a beneficiary, bids are welcome now.

Children In Need will round off what has already been a very good year for TV charity fundraising. There's been Soccer Aid and the Prince's Trust on ITV, The Games and Celebrity Big Brother on C4 and Sky One's Final Chance to Save.

Reality shows have found that marketing their offerings as charity fundraisers can bring in viewers and ease their consciences.Second-hand format? D-list celebs? Do it for charity and all will be forgiven.

Nevertheless, the importance of getting everything in writing was made all too clear this month after The Games misinformed Jeans for Genes on how much it would receive and when.

A unique relationship

For the BBC, Children In Need is straightforward enough - it is its own charity. Comic Relief isn't, and its unique relationship with Auntie has its origins in a less regulated age. A similar deal would never happen now. In a recent public debate, BBC bigwigs said they would turn down any concert that set out to fundraise on screen, even if fronted by Sir Bob.

Instead, it now chooses appeals that benefit a number of charities such as Saving Planet Earth, due to be screened in the new year. Even so, the issue of dividing funds evenly is giving policy wonks sleepless nights.

The BBC has an Appeals Advisory Committee to adjudicate on who gets to fundraise on its two warhorses, the Radio 4 Appeal and Lifeline. It's an issue for them if your charity campaigns on a controversial subject, or if you have a high profile in such a debate. Earlier this year, broadcasters stopped a Disasters Emergency Committee appeal for Lebanon because of political sensitivities.

If you do get on air, how much cash can you expect? Half a million was raised in total last year by Radio 4 appeals - but although Leprosy Mission made £37,000, the Centre for Corporate Accountability struggled to raise £668. It might take a year to secure a broadcast after your first application, but for smaller charities that's a good lead time to have.

Lifeline goes out monthly on BBC1 and was 20 years old last month. It's raised £6m in that time, and will also carry news stories or an appeal for volunteers. The odds of making it onto the show aren't that long, and you can do it more than once - Debra has been the most successful charity, raising £320,000 over two appeals. It will be on again next year.

So what are you waiting for? Nick Ware is controller of the Community Channel

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