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Four Cheers for C-SPAN

A good time for Congress to consider handing network control of cameras

I am probably not breaking news here, but I rely on C-SPAN for a lot of my access to the workings — or more often dysfunctionings — of Congress.

That means I rely on cable operators around the country who fund the channel — make that channels and website.

It is, in a word, indispensable.

It is also often taken for granted, for which C-SPAN has only itself to blame. Because it is so pervasive and so professionally run, the access it provides to our sausage-makers has come to feel like an entitlement, or at least a constitutional right.

Last week, Rep. Ami Bera (D-Calif.) introduced what he called a “simple change” to House rules that would ensure the next congressional sit-in does not have to rely on Periscope or Facebook video streams to get out.

Actually, many were still relying on C-SPAN during the House sit-in last month, when the cameras were turned off, but social media lit up and the network was there to tap into it.

Bera said he figured most viewers assumed C-SPAN was part of the “public domain,” adding: “We ought to give control of those cameras back over to the media and the public, and have independent control.”

C-SPAN has long sought to be able to use its own cameras rather than have to take the feed from House cameras controlled by the Speaker. I agree, and this seems a good time for Congress to consider it.

Members of Congress will be going off to campaign for re-election in a week or so. When they get back, perhaps they can make that a parting gift to the nation.

But also noteworthy was Bera’s comment that most people probably thought C-SPAN was the public’s domain. Of course, that is just what it has become, thanks to the investment of the cable industry.