C-SPAN isn’t packing up its cameras quietly.
The public affairs network on Tuesday sent a letter to new House Speaker Kevin McCarthy asking for permission to operate its own independent cameras in the House chamber. “Allow C-SPAN to cover House floor proceedings on behalf of our network and all Congressionally-accredited news organizations,” co-chief executive Susan Swain wrote McCarthy.
Typically, the video feed viewers see on television of the House conducting its normal day-to-day business is one provided by the government to the press from government-controlled cameras. That’s because the House normally forbids independent media coverage of proceedings. But during special events, such as last week during the election of the House speaker, independent cameras from outlets like C-SPAN are permitted.
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Independent coverage translates to more cameras in the House chamber which translates to more scenes, such as the moment a physical altercation nearly occurred on the floor last week, being captured and broadcast in real-time to the public.
“During last week’s Speaker election, C-SPAN was permitted to bring its own cameras into the chamber. The public, press, and Member reaction to C-SPAN’s coverage — along with the ‘transparency’ themes in your new rules package — have encouraged us to resubmit a request we have made to your predecessors without success,” Swain wrote in her letter to McCarthy.
“We do not propose replacing the existing House Recording System or its output. Instead, we request to install a few additional cameras in the House chamber,” Swain added. “When mixed with the existing House production, shots from our cameras would allow us to create a second, journalistic product, just as we did last week.”
A spokesperson for McCarthy did not respond to requests for comment and a representative for C-SPAN said Tuesday evening that the network had not heard back from his office. A spokesperson for House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries also didn’t respond to requests for comment.
But other members of Congress have expressed openness or outright support for letting C-SPAN cameras into the chamber.
When asked by CNN’s Manu Raju on Tuesday evening about the matter, House Majority Leader Steve Scalise replied, “I think that’d be great. I think it’s great that the public’s going to be able to see more about the way the government works.”
Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz, who certainly has benefited during his career from exposure to the camera, also filed a measure on Tuesday that would allow for C-SPAN cameras to be in the House chamber at all times. “Our fellow Americans deserve to know when we are frustrated with one another, kind to one another, present, or absent. The current pool view of the Congress is antiquated and boomer-fied,” he said in a statement to CNN’s Jake Tapper.
Wisconsin Democratic Rep. Mark Pocan also said he will introduce a similar measure. “Last week’s [C-SPAN] coverage was worthy of an Oscar,” Pocan tweeted. “That’s why I’m introducing legislation requiring House cameras to continue to capture the full Chamber & not just what the Speaker wants.”
C-SPAN has long called on Congress and other bodies of government to grant it access so that it can offer the public a front-row seat to the work officials are doing on their behalf. In fact, the network has an entire webpage in which letters requesting such access are posted. Ben O’Connell, director of C-SPAN’s editorial operations, said last week that independent coverage should be permitted — if only for a matter of principle.
“I think it is really important for journalists to be behind the cameras rather than the government be behind the cameras,” O’Connell said. “We, during a typical legislative day, have a government entity covering the government. And I think it would be invaluable to have journalists behind the camera instead.”