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Reintroducing: The Advocates

In partnership with WGBH and the Open Society Foundations, IDEA is pleased to announce a new online collection of the pioneering television debate series, The Advocates. The Advocates was a weekly debate program that aired nationwide in the United States on PBS through much of the turbulent decade of the 1970s. Policy issues selected by the show’s editorial staff ranged over the many hot political topics of the day, from the Vietnam War to same sex marriage, campaign financing reform, abortion, affirmative action, nuclear power, federally funded health care, and many more.

As the United States is in the midst of a Presidential Election, it has become clear that many of these issues are still extremely important and pervasive, and over the years, hundreds of eloquent spokespersons, from then-senator Joseph Biden to Hubert Humphrey, appeared on the show.

Premiering in 1969 in the United States and running initially for six seasons, The Advocates staged debates about these issues and invited the public to mail in their votes to determine the winner – an early pre-cursor to voting/elimination-style reality television. Influential figures appearing on the program include Joseph Biden, Michael Dukakis, Barney Frank, Jesse Owens, and many more.

This digitized online collection will feature 50 videos from the award-winning public television series, in hopes of informing today’s young debaters on a variety of issues. “If we expect today’s generation to bring the principles of critical thinking, educated reason, and an open-minded flexibility to the challenges of the 21st century, we must model these principles in action,” said Karen Cariani, Director of the Media Library and Archives. “The complexity of issues faced today requires skilled thinkers who can shape arguments and build consensus on a path to new ideas and effective solutions, and the content gleaned through The Advocates is just as relevant today as it was 40 years ago.”

Through both the IDEA website and the WGBH’s Open Vault website, students and viewers can access free streams to The Advocates episodes selected for their current relevance and historical significance.

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