Open the House to C-Span

The Washington Times Weekly - - Editorials -

Af­ter promis­ing through­out the 2006 con­gres­sional cam­paign to give Amer­i­cans the “most open” Congress in his­tory, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi passed up a golden op­por­tu­nity to ad­vance that com­mit­ment. Three days be­fore Christ­mas, Mrs. Pelosi dis­ap­pointed mil­lions of C-SPAN view­ers by re­ject­ing C-SPAN’s re­quest to use its own cam­eras and op­er­a­tors to tele­vise House pro­ceed­ings. Un­less she changes her mind, C-SPAN view­ers will con­tinue to be short­changed. Their view of democ­racy in ac­tion inside the Peo­ple’s House would re­main strictly con­fined to the podium.

The good news is that Mrs. Pelosi may change her mind. She and C-SPAN Chair­man and CEO Brian Lamb will soon be meet­ing to dis­cuss the is­sue. Since CSPAN be­gan tele­vis­ing de­bates in the House in 1979, the cam­eras have been con­trolled by the speaker, be­gin­ning with Demo­cratic Speaker Tip O’Neill and later in­clud­ing the speak­er­ships of Repub­li­cans Newt Gin­grich and Den­nis Hastert. There has been bi­par­ti­san agree­ment among speak­ers to limit C-SPAN view­ers to static, head-on shots of the rep­re­sen­ta­tive who is speak­ing at the podium. Mrs. Pelosi can cel­e­brate her his­toric elec­tion as the first wo­man speaker by uni­lat­er­ally de­cid­ing to bring the House’s tele­vised de­bates into the 21st cen­tury.

Hav­ing spent a quar­ter cen­tury scrupu- lously demon­strat­ing C-SPAN’s non­par­ti­san, good-gov­ern­ment bona fides, Mr. Lamb has rightly be­lieved for some time that the speaker-con­trolled cam­eras have be­come “an anachro­nism that does a dis­ser­vice to the in­sti­tu­tion and to the pub- lic.” He shared that view with Mrs. Pelosi in a Dec. 14 let­ter. Seek­ing to pro­vide the C-SPAN au­di­ence a much more com­plete view of the great de­bates tak­ing place in the House, Mr. Lamb sought Mrs. Pelosi’s per­mis­sion to use C-SPAN cam­eras. Rather than strictly limit their fo­cus to the podium, C-SPAN-op­er­ated cam­eras would pan the House cham­ber. They would pro­vide the net­work’s view­ers with re­ac­tion shots dur­ing de­bates. C-SPAN view­ers could wit­ness the give-and-take in­ter­ac­tion of their rep­re­sen­ta­tives as the great is­sues of the day were be­ing de­cided. In other words, C-SPAN cam­eras would of­fer the television au­di­ence the same per­spec­tive avail­able to any­body sit­ting in the House Gallery Area.

As Mr. Lamb has noted on the net­work’s daily morn­ing show, “Wash­ing­ton Jour­nal,” it has been es­ti­mated that 90 per­cent of CSPAN’s loyal view­ers ex­er­cise their right to vote. Shouldn’t they have the same op­por­tu­nity to wit­ness their rep­re­sen­ta­tives in ac­tion as for­eign tourists have? Com­pared to vot­ing C-SPAN view­ers, for­eign tourists from Lon­don, War­saw, Bagh­dad or Moscow have a bet­ter op­por­tu­nity, by visit­ing the House Gallery Area, to ob­serve more in­ter­ac­tion be­tween Amer­ica’s elected of­fi­cials en­gag­ing in the rep­re­sen­ta­tive democ­racy pre­scribed by the world’s old­est writ­ten con­sti­tu­tion still in use.

Only Mrs. Pelosi can give C-SPAN view­ers the same op­por­tu­nity that for­eign tourists have. She should re­con­sider her ear­lier de­ci­sion. Mrs. Pelosi has the sole power to take a big step to­ward ful­fill­ing her com­mit­ment to pro­vide the “most open” House in his­tory.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.