Over twenty years ago, television news pioneer Fred W. Friendly brought to public television a unique series of programs in which participants were forced to put their principles to the test in gripping dilemmas drawn from real life. Now the production company founded by Fred Friendly ushers his vision into a new millennium with In the Balance. Beginning with this two-part series on terrorism, In the Balance will bring together people in power to confront some of the greatest dilemmas of our time. The fast-paced, in-the-round dialogue may have a new look, but one thing is unchanged: The requirement that panelists put aside their speeches, make hard decisions, and talk to each other rather than at each other.
Taking the Socratic dialogue as his model, Mr Friendly developed and refined the format of his seminars, first under the auspices of the Ford Foundation and then as a program of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Using a hypothetical case history and a skilled moderator, the seminars compel panelists to decide how to act in complicated situations where the "right" choices are not clear. As panelists wrestle with the hypothetical, a tense and spontaneous drama is created that illuminates complex questions in stimulating and entertaining ways. The seminars have proven uniquely effective in exploring knotty ethical, legal, and public-policy issues and in creating the basis for panelists to "talk to each other, rather than shout past each other." Fred Friendly died on March 3, 1998, but the series continues to carry on his work.
In countless seminars and more than one hundred television programs, the Socratic dialogue format has been used to consider such subjects as libel, the First Amendment and other Constitutional issues, the judiciary and public policy, ethics in America, medicine and health care, privacy, journalism and democracy, and popular culture.