C-SPAN has requested ongoing access to cover House floor proceedings in a letter to House speaker Kevin McCarthy Tuesday just days after McCarthy’s struggle to be elected enabled unprecedented access for the the nonprofit public service channel into the House chambers.
“Since the U.S. House first allowed its sessions to be televised nearly 43 years ago, there has been little change in the strict rules that House technicians must follow to provide video coverage of the floor to news organizations, including C-SPAN,” the letter signed by C-SPAN co-CEO Susan Swain said. “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: Allow C-SPAN to cover House floor proceedings on behalf of our network and all Congressionally-accredited news organizations.”
During the multiple days of negotiations and 15 rounds of voting before McCarthy was eventually elected, C-SPAN’s intimate coverage of the longest speaker contest in over 164 years dominated news networks as political commentators analyzed the near-brawl between McCarthy and Gaetz, Marjorie Taylor Green’s phone call with former President Donald Trump on the House floor and shared moments of humor as Rep. Katie Porter read “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F-ck.”
The House speaker election is one of the rare occasions when the House allows outside cameras into to its chambers, along with State of the Union addresses, ceremonial joint sessions of Congress and other special events, including President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s recent speech to Congress. The historic media policy is dictated by the House speaker, and has remained relatively unchanged regardless of the partisanship of that speaker.
When C-SPAN or other media outlets do not have camera access during these special circumstances, the government operates a production which C-SPAN and other outlets use during news broadcasts that is only allowed to show the person who was speaking and wide shots, accounting for the typical bird’s-eye view or tight shots of single speakers one might see on cable news.
The request proposes that C-SPAN would install a “few additional cameras” in the House chamber that would be mixed with the existing House production to create “a second, journalistic product.” In the proposed plan, the audio would continue to be provided by the House Recording Studio and C-SPAN would not install additional audio systems.
“We understand there is a move among some members for a resolution that would relax the rules used by the House Recording Studio,” the letter continued. “While this would be an improvement over the current static shots of the dais and the podium, video produced by government employees lacks the transparency that C-SPAN, as a journalistic institution is able to provide.”
“We stand ready to answer any questions you or the Democratic leadership might have about our requests,” the letter concludes. “We all share an important goal — informing and involving the American public with what transpires in the People’s House.”