C-SPAN doesn’t pack 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 the House negotiations on behalf of our network and all congressional accredited news organizations,” wrote Susan Swain, co-executive director, to McCarthy.
Typically, the video feed that viewers see on television is delivered by the government to the press from state-controlled cameras, from the house going about its normal day-to-day business. That’s because the House of Representatives normally prohibits independent media coverage of trials. But during special events, like last week’s House election, independent cameras from outlets like C-SPAN are allowed.
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Independent reporting is leading to more cameras in the House of Representatives chamber, leading to more scenes, such as the moment when there was a near physical altercation on the floor last week, being captured and broadcast to the public in real time.
“During the speaker election last week, C-SPAN was allowed to bring its own cameras into the chamber. The response of the public, press, and members to C-SPAN’s coverage—along with the “transparency” issues in your new rules package—has encouraged us to resubmit a request that we unsuccessfully addressed to your predecessors ‘ Swain wrote in her letter to McCarthy.
“We are not proposing to replace the existing home recording system or its output. Instead, we’re asking for a few extra cameras to be installed in the closet of the house,” Swain added. “By mixing the footage from our cameras with the existing house production, we could create a second, journalistic product, just like we did last week.”
A spokesman for McCarthy did not respond to requests for comment, and a C-SPAN representative said Tuesday night that the network has not heard from his office. A spokesman for House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries also did not respond to requests for comment.
However, other members of Congress have expressed openness or full support for allowing C-SPAN cameras into the chamber.
When questioned by CNN’s Manu Raju on the matter on Tuesday night, House Majority Leader Steve Scalise replied: “I think that would be great. I think it’s great that the public can learn more about how government works.”
Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz, who has certainly benefited from camera exposure throughout his career, also filed a measure Tuesday that would allow 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, when we are friendly with one another, when we are present, when we are absent. The current pool view of Congress is antiquated and boomer-ready,” he said in a statement to CNN’s Jake Tapper.
Wisconsin Democratic Rep. Mark Pocan also said he would introduce a similar measure. “Last weeks [C-SPAN] coverage was worthy of an Oscar.” Pocan tweeted. “That’s why I’m introducing legislation that requires house cameras to continue to capture the entire chamber and not just what the speaker wants.”
C-SPAN has long urged Congress and other government agencies to grant it access so that it can give the public a front row seat to the work officials are doing on their behalf. In fact, the network has an entire website posting letters requesting such access. Ben O’Connell, C-SPAN’s editorial director, said last week that independent reporting should be allowed — if only as a matter of principle.
“I think it’s really important that journalists are behind the cameras and not the government behind the cameras,” O’Connell said. “During a typical legislative day, we have one government agency covering the government. And I think it would be invaluable to have journalists behind the camera instead.”