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C-SPAN Returns To Government-Controlled Feed Of U.S. House Proceedings — And Viewers Lose A Candid Glimpse Of Lawmakers In Action

As the U.S. House returned on Monday following the dramatic 15-ballot vote for speaker, so too did the chamber return to its regular C-SPAN view: Stationary shots of the rostrum and whoever is speaking at the majority and minority lecterns.

It’s quite a change from last week, when C-SPAN cameras offered candid views of angry lawmakers, curious conversations and, late on Friday, what looked like the beginnings of a brawl.

That was because C-SPAN was allowed to have its own cameras in the chamber for the first day of the new Congress which, as we saw, ended up stretching out through the week. The industry-financed network or independent news outlets are typically given permission to serve as pool coverage of these special events, such as joint sessions and the State of the Union. Otherwise, C-SPAN draws on government-controlled cameras in the chamber, giving the fixed and wide angle feeds that are typical of most other times.

C-SPAN, a private nonprofit financed by the cable industry, would like more and better access to the House chamber, as well as the Senate. The interest in last week’s proceedings undoubtedly was driven in part by the network’s ability to capture visuals of the drama, something not lost on lawmakers often looking for larger public profiles.

So why limit independent media cameras to just special events? Howard Mortman, spokesperson for C-SPAN, said that they have not heard anything yet from House leadership on expanding access. “We are having our own internal discussions about next steps,” he said via email. “We certainly hope to gain greater access to at least key legislative proceedings.”

Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) wrote on Twitter that C-SPAN’s coverage was “worthy of an Oscar,” and that he planned to introduce legislation “requiring House cameras to continue to capture the full Chamber & not just what the Speaker wants.”

Matt Sparks, spokesperson for House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, said that they are “exploring a number of options to open up the People’s House to ensure a more transparent and accessible Congress for the American people.”

While it takes a long, long time to change tradition in D.C., it does happen. Media outlets have long press the Supreme Court to allow video coverage of oral arguments, but justices have resisted it. The high court did, however, allow live audio feeds of the proceedings as they went virtual due to Covid. That has continued this term.

Given the coverage last week, C-SPAN did advise on Twitter that its cameras were no longer in the chamber, likely to clear up any viewer confusion. “We have resumed using the feed from the House/government-operating cameras.”



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