'Great Decisions' production moves to the University of Delaware
Ralph Begleiter, Distinguished Journalist in Residence at UD, tapes a segment for 'Great Decisions 2009' on UD's Newark campus.
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5:15 p.m., Feb. 13, 2009----The University of Delaware has partnered with the nonpartisan Foreign Policy Association (FPA) to produce Great Decisions, a television series that takes a comprehensive look at the eight most critical world affairs issues of the coming year through the lens of their impact on America and what they mean to the public.

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Now in its 24th season, the television series was initially produced in Washington, D.C., before it moved to New York City and then to UD in 2008, said Ralph Begleiter, Distinguished Journalist in Residence and Rosenberg Professor of Communication at the UD who served as CNN's World Affairs Correspondent from 1981-99 and has been hosting Great Decisions for the past nine years.

Each episode takes on a different region or topic critical to an understanding of the changing world in 2009, offering insider tidbits and expert opinion on where we are, where we're going and how we can get there, encouraging Americans to make a “Great Decision” of their own. Last year the series was broadcast to 76 percent of U.S. households.

"The University of Delaware is pleased to partner with the Foreign Policy Association to provide the public in major television markets across the country with in-depth discussions by key authorities on major global issues," said Dave Brond, vice president for communications & marketing at UD. "It's a great opportunity for UD to demonstrate its commitment to a global presence."

FPA is a nonprofit organization dedicated to inspiring the American public to learn more about the world. Founded in 1918, FPA serves as a catalyst for developing awareness, understanding of and providing informed opinions on global issues. Through its balanced, nonpartisan programs and publications, the FPA encourages citizens to participate in the foreign policy process.

“Everyone has been at a dinner party or even just watching the news, where they had some of the facts on a topic, but wished they understood the bigger picture,” said MacDara King, executive producer of the series. “We hope Great Decisions reminds people that you don't need to be a political scientist to understand world affairs and foreign policy that affect us every day.”

Great Decisions 2009 features impartial, thought-provoking analyses on eight issues of concern to U.S. policymakers today representing the foreign policy challenges of tomorrow. The topics in the latest series are Rising Giants: The World's Fastest Growing Countries; Border Patrol: Pakistan and Afghanistan; Off the Grid: Energy & the U.S. Economy; Race for The Arctic; Egypt in the 21st Century; Running Out: The Global Food Crisis; Cuba after Castro; and Human Rights: 'Never Again,' Again and Again.

Great Decisions, which has been run by the FPA for more than 50 years, consists of two components: A “briefing book” published annually by FPA and the television show, which began 24 years ago. The package is distributed to schools and discussion groups around the country annually in January.

The “briefing book” is comprised of essays written by foreign affairs analysts and officials, at the request of the FPA each year. Once the topics are chosen by the FPA Board, the essays are commissioned, and the TV production unit begins its work.

Great Decisions is a perfect fit for the University of Delaware,” Begleiter said. “President Patrick Harker has made it clear that he is interested in internationalizing the UD campus, so hosting a foreign affairs public TV program seems a 'natural.'

“UD has outstanding technical facilities and staff in its Media Services department, so hosting the program here should be convenient and professional. UD's geographical location, halfway between the White House and the United Nations, and conveniently along Amtrak's reliable northeast corridor service, with a convenient hotel right on campus for guests and FPA personnel, makes us a perfect place to host program guests from New York and Washington,” Begleiter said.

Carl Asti, interim director of University Media Services, said working with the FPA crew to produce the series at UD has been seamless for members of his team because most of them have worked in the broadcast industry, so the project takes them back to their roots.

“We incorporated our remote equipment into our existing studio to enable us to shoot in high definition,” Asti said. “Half a dozen members of our team at Media Services have been working with the team of camera operators, the producer and director.”

Article by Martin A Mbugua
Photo by Kathy F. Atkinson