About the Seminars

For over 30 years, televised Fred Friendly Seminars added a unique dimension to public affairs programming on PBS. Exploring a wide range of urgent social and public policy issues including affirmative action; health care and end-of-life issues; national energy policy; and bioterrorism; or ethical issues facing journalists, attorneys, doctors, the military, the Seminars invited PBS viewers to struggle with gripping hypothetical dilemmas drawn from real scenarios facing Americans. The timeless quality of the scenarios makes them relevant to many issues we face today. Please contact us to learn more about the programs and to find out how to order or view them.

The Seminars always begin with a little story and a problem that could confront almost anyone. The implications of this problem, whatever they may be, then ripple out to encompass larger and larger issues and trigger ethical, emotional, legal, and public policy questions that overlap and sometimes conflict. Each Seminar program features a carefully chosen panel that contributes professional expertise as well as personal experience to the discussion. As the panelists wrestle with the issues presented in the hypothetical, they are encouraged not just to say what they think about an issue, but to say what they would do in difficult decision-making situations if they were personally involved. The viewers are along for the ride, intellectually and emotionally, as the story creates a link for citizens between their lives and issues in the headlines that so often seem remote, abstract and unconnected to their day to day concerns.

The legacy of the Fred Friendly Seminars is rich, with over one hundred PBS programs broadcast through the years. Landmark series such as THE CONSTITUTION: That Delicate Balance engaged America in a riveting examination of contemporary issues against the backdrop of the founding principles of our democracy. Prescient Seminars like BEFORE I DIE: Medical Care and Personal Choices and ETHICS IN AMERICA, a ten part series that places experts from government, the press, medicine, law, business, and the military directly in the line of fire. Forward-looking programs like NANOTECHNOLOGY: The Power of Small encouraged the nation to consider the implications of scientific advances emerging from the laboratory.

In addition to these PBS broadcasts, over the years the Fred Friendly Seminars produced hundreds of Seminar events for educational institutions, judicial and legal groups, medical associations, international organizations, government agencies, and corporations in a wide range of industries. Created as the centerpiece of a conference, for professional training, or for other purposes, these events used the distinctive format of a Fred Friendly Seminars program to open minds, spark discussion and move towards solutions.

For MINDS ON THE EDGE: Facing Mental Illness, the last program of Fred Friendly Seminars, a multimedia platform was created to carry the legacy of this unique television format into the digital future. Using social media, user-generated content, and web-only content extensions it amplified the extraordinary power of a Fred Friendly Seminar as a catalyst for critical thinking.

As Fred Friendly often said, "These programs are 'evergreens.' The issues they explore don’t fade away."

For more information on the FFS programs or how to obtain them, check the program index or contact us.