November 5, 2008

The public wins with C-SPAN

I have been a fan of C-SPAN for many years, and I’ve always appreciated their even-handedness in programming. For nearly 30 years, their coverage of Congress and other entities has been superb, offering the American public an opportunity to observe government in action, without editing or commentary. It’s a function that I long felt public broadcasting could and should have served – an unfettered purveyor of high quality public affairs programming focusing on government.

Perhaps such a role for public broadcasting was a bit optimistic, recognizing that a substantial amount of its funding comes from federal and state governments, allowing it to be a whipping boy when things go awry “at the Capitol.” Nonetheless, I wish I had pushed even harder for such a role for public broadcasting during my earlier years in public broadcasting. I proposed such a service several times to the Mississippi legislature -- probably not the ideal venue for such a state service.

C-SPAN was created in 1979 by the U.S. cable television industry and was, I believe, largely the brain-child of Brian Lamb. It was a stroke of genius at just the right time. In these days of heightened media bias – and it does exist – it’s refreshing to find a broadcast service that strives for objectivity and fairness. And their nearly 300 employees usually get it right. According to their website, about 30 million viewers tune in to C-SPAN every week.

When Karen and I retired and took to the road a few years ago, the availability of C-SPAN Radio was a key factor in our subscribing to XM satellite radio, and it was a good investment.

C-SPAN isn’t for everyone, but I find myself mesmerized by the gavel-to-gavel coverage of much floor and committee action in both the U.S. House of Representative and the U.S. Senate. It’s a wonderful insight into the public machinations of our government, albeit sometimes a bit unnerving.

Will Rogers would likely say it’s a pretty good way to keep an eye on the hired help.

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