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A telethon is a contraction of the words television and marathon. The term refers to a lengthy television program, lasting many hours or even days, the purpose of which is to raise money for a charitable, political, or other allegedly worthy cause. The format of a telethon usually consists of performances by singers, musicians, comedians, or other entertainers interspersed with pitches for donations. Typically the program is staged on a set containing volunteer telephone operators, a stage, a tote board that displays the amount of money raised, a band, and a studio audience.

The audio portion of a telethon somteimes consists of a tape loop consisting of canned hubbub and the sound of ringing telephones (to give viewers the impression that the phones are ringing).

Telethons are held for various organisations around the world. In the United States, telethons are held for groups such as Muscular Dystrophy Associations, the St. Jude Children's Hospital; the Shriners; Chabad; and the Public Broadcasting System.

The most successful annual Telethon per capita in the world is run over 25 hours in Perth, Western Australia, by the Seven Network.