Live Aid was a benefit concert held on Saturday 13 July 1985, as well as a music-based fundraising initiative. The original event was organised by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure to raise funds for relief of the 1983–1985 famine in Ethiopia. Billed as the “global jukebox”, the event was held simultaneously at Wembley Stadium in London, UK, attended by about 72,000 people and John F. Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia, US, attended by 89,484 people.
On the same day, concerts inspired by the initiative were held in other countries, such as the Soviet Union, Canada, Japan, Yugoslavia, Austria, Australia and West Germany. It was one of the largest satellite link-ups and television broadcasts of all time; an estimated audience of 1.9 billion, in 150 nations, watched the live broadcast, nearly 40 per cent of the world population.
The impact of Live Aid on famine relief has been debated for years. One aid relief worker stated that following the publicity generated by the concert, “humanitarian concern is now at the center of foreign policy” for western governments. Geldof has said, “We took an issue that was nowhere on the political agenda and, through the lingua franca of the planet – which is not English but rock ‘n’ roll – we were able to address the intellectual absurdity and the moral repulsion of people dying of want in a world of surplus.” In another interview he stated that Live Aid “created something permanent and self-sustaining” but also asked why Africa is getting poorer. The organizers of Live Aid tried, without much success, to run aid efforts directly, channeling millions of pounds to NGOs in Ethiopia. It has been alleged that much of this went to the Ethiopian government of Mengistu Haile Mariam – a regime the UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher wanted to “destabilize” – and it is also alleged some funds were spent on guns. The BBC stated in 2010 there was no evidence money had been diverted, while the former British Ambassador to Ethiopia, Brian Barder, states, “the diversion of aid related only to the tiny proportion that was supplied by some NGOs to rebel-held areas.”