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University's Wilson School Launches Academic Channel

Candace Braun

With the recent launch of the University Channel, topics like cloning, human rights, and democracy can now be discussed and viewed through a medium that is accessible nationwide.

The University Channel is a video project that was founded by the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.

According to Donna Liu, founder and director of the University Channel, it was created as a public service to any community interested in viewing serious lectures that take place at schools of higher learning.

"They can be used to enrich any classroom discussion," she said, adding that not only students and professors, but some members of the community could have an interest in viewing these lectures, which aren't easily accessible if you don't live or work in a university town.

Ms. Liu first came to Princeton in 2002 as a Ferris Professor, a two-year teaching fellowship for mid-career journalists. Prior to that, she was a news producer and manager for 18 years at CNN Asia. Following the completion of her fellowship, she remained at Princeton to pursue bringing the University Channel to fruition.

The idea for the channel began when Ms. Liu realized that the University was already taping some of its public lectures at the Woodrow Wilson School but didn't have a proper outlet for them. She decided to start local, and airing the lectures on Princeton Community Television (TV30) on Patriot Media.

"I realized it was fairly simple to get these [lectures] on the air," she said, adding that she began to explore the idea of making the lectures available on a national level.

Ms. Liu emphasized that the programs are public lectures, panels, and conferences taped at colleges and universities, and that they are uncut, unedited programs of people discussing public and international affairs.

"I think people are more forgiving of less quality production if the content is good, which is what we're emphasizing," said Ms. Liu.

She proposed her idea to have an outlet for all universities on television to Anne-Marie Slaughter, the dean of the Wilson School, who agreed that the channel would create a much-needed public platform for the discussion of critical issues.

"I feel it is important to create a media outlet under the direction of academics, where intelligent viewers can find the kind of analysis and dialogue that rarely gets aired on commercial media," said Ms. Slaughter.

Soon the University Channel was underway, and Ms. Liu spent the next few years building the concept, and creating a Web site (http://uc.princeton.edu) where the programming could be accessed.

She began contacting other prestigious schools across the nation, and more often than not, they would have tapes on their shelves of lectures, but no outlet for showing them. She emphasized that any school that is interested in broadcasting through the channel can participate.

"We've been getting a lot of interest from a lot of parts of the country," said Ms. Liu, mentioning Harvard University and the University of California at Berkeley as two schools that now utilize the channel.

"All of this is possible through the world of digital video," she said, explaining that Patriot Media customers can access the channel by using its video-on-demand service, and clicking the "free stuff" button on Channel 1.

Other community access channels are also picking up programs on the University Channel for re-broadcast, in places such as Chicago and Cambridge, Mass.

"We're looking to get these lectures as much public view as possible," said Ms. Liu, adding that the channel can be accessed for free for the first six months, to get a public interest and to the make people aware of what it has to offer.

Ms. Liu added that she is currently working on building an audience for "iTunes," which allows the public to access the lectures on the computer for listening purposes only.

"My goal is to reach out to the public in as many ways as possible," she said.

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