|Launched||19 March 1979 (C-SPAN)
2 June 1986 (C-SPAN2)
22 January 2001 (C-SPAN3)
|Owned by||National Cable Satellite Corporation (nonprofit).|
|Picture format||1080i (HD)
|Slogan||Created by Cable. Offered as a Public Service.|
|Broadcast area||United States|
|Headquarters||Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C.|
|90.1 FM / HD Radio (Washington, D.C. / Baltimore)|
|Selective TV, Inc.
|K62AU (Channel 62)|
|DirecTV||350: C-SPAN (SD)
351: C-SPAN2 (SD)
C-SPAN3 not offered
|Dish Network||210: C-SPAN (SD)
C-SPAN3 not offered
C-SPAN3 not offered
|Available on most cable systems||Check local listings for channels|
|Verizon FiOS||109: C-SPAN (SD)
110: C-SPAN2 (SD)
111: C-SPAN3 (SD)
|AT&T U-verse||230: C-SPAN (SD)
231: C-SPAN 2 (SD)
232: C-SPAN 3 (SD)
|Available free to all Internet users||C-Span live
and on demand
C-SPAN (pron.: //), an acronym for Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network, is a private, non-profit American cable television network, created in 1979 by the cable television industry as a public service that offers television broadcasting of federal government proceedings and other public affairs programming by its three television channels (C-SPAN, C-SPAN2 and C-SPAN3), one radio station and a group of websites that provide "streaming media" and archives of C-SPAN programs. C-SPAN's television channels are available to more than 100 million cable and satellite households within the United States, while WCSP-FM, also called C-SPAN Radio, is broadcast on FM radio in Washington, D.C., and is available throughout the U.S. on XM Satellite Radio, via Internet streaming, and through an iPhone app.
The network televises U.S. political events, particularly live and "gavel-to-gavel" coverage of the U.S. Congress as well as occasional proceedings of the Canadian and British Parliaments and major events worldwide. Its coverage of political and policy events is unedited, thereby providing viewers (or listeners) with unfiltered information about politics and government. Non-political coverage includes: historical programming, programs dedicated to non-fiction books and interview programs with noteworthy individuals associated with public policy. C-SPAN is a nonprofit organization, funded by a relatively small 6-cent per subscriber affiliate fee paid by its cable and satellite affiliates, and does not have advertisements on any of its networks, radio stations or websites, nor does it ever solicit donations or pledges. The network operates independently, and neither the cable industry nor Congress has control of the content of its programming.
Brian Lamb, C-SPAN's chairman and former chief executive officer, first conceived of C-SPAN in 1975 while working as the Washington, D.C. bureau chief of cable industry trade magazine Cablevision. It was a time of rapid growth in the number of cable television channels available in the U.S., and Lamb envisioned a cable-industry financed nonprofit network for televising sessions of the U.S. Congress and other public affairs event and policy discussions. Lamb shared his idea with John D. Evans in 1977, who with a number of others helped to co-found the network. Early cable-TV executive Bob Rosencrans provided the initial funding of $25,000 for Lamb to initiate C-SPAN in 1979 and other cable-TV executives followed suit, eventually forming C-SPAN's first board of directors.
C-SPAN was launched on 19 March 1979, in time for the first televised session made available by the House of Representatives, beginning with a speech by then-Tennessee representative Al Gore. Upon its debut, only 3.5 million homes were wired for C-SPAN, and the network had just three employees. The second C-SPAN channel, C-SPAN2, initiated on 2 June 1986 when the U.S. Senate permitted itself to be televised. C-SPAN3, the most recent expansion channel, began full-time operations on 22 January 2001, and shows other public policy and government-related live events on weekdays along with weekend historical programming. C-SPAN3 followed a predecessor digital channel named C-SPAN Extra, launched in the Washington D.C. area in 1997, televising live and recorded political events from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST Monday to Friday.
C-SPAN Radio launched on 9 October 1997, covering similar events as the TV networks and often simulcasting their programming. The station broadcasts on WCSP 90.1 FM in Washington, D.C., is also available on XM satellite radio Channel 119 and is streamed live at c-span.org. It was formerly available on Sirius satellite radio from 2002 until 2006.
Lamb semi-retired in March 2012, coinciding with the channel's 33rd anniversary, and gave executive control of the network to his two lieutenants, Rob Kennedy and Susan Swain.
C-SPAN had its 10th anniversary in 1989 and celebrated with a three-hour retrospective, featuring Lamb recalling the development of the network. The 15th anniversary was commemorated in a more unusual manner; the network initiated a series of re-enactments of the seven historic Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858, which were televised from August to October during 1994.
In 2003, C-SPAN celebrated its 25th anniversary, by which time the original network was viewed in 86 million homes, C-SPAN2 was in 70 million homes and C-SPAN3 was in 8 million homes. On the anniversary date, C-SPAN repeated the first televised hour of floor debate in the House of Representatives from 1979 and, throughout the month, 25th anniversary features included "then and now" segments with journalists who had appeared on C-SPAN during its early years.
To commemorate 25 years of taking viewer telephone calls, in 2005, C-SPAN had a 25-hour "call-in marathon", from 8:00 p.m. on Friday, 7 October, concluding at 9:00 p.m. on Saturday, 8 October. The network also had a viewer essay contest, the winner of which was invited to host an hour of the broadcast from C-SPAN's Capitol Hill studios.
Scope of coverage
C-SPAN continues to expand its coverage of government proceedings, with a history of requests to government officials for greater access, especially to the U.S. Supreme Court. In December 2009, Lamb wrote to leaders in the House and Senate, requesting that negotiations for health care reform be televised by C-SPAN. Committee meetings on health care were broadcast subsequently by C-SPAN and can be viewed on the C-SPAN website. In November 2010, Lamb wrote to incoming House Speaker John Boehner requesting changes to restrictions on cameras in the House. In particular, C-SPAN asked to add some of its own robotically operated cameras to the existing government-controlled cameras in the House chamber. In February 2011, Boehner denied the request. A previous request to Speaker Designate Nancy Pelosi in 2006, to add C-SPAN's cameras in the House chamber to record floor proceedings, was also denied. Although C-SPAN uses the congressional chamber feed cables, the cameras are owned and controlled by each respective body of Congress. Requests by C-SPAN for camera access to non-government events such as the annual dinner by the Gridiron Club have also been denied.
Expansion and technology
Since the late 1990s, C-SPAN has significantly expanded its online presence. In January 1997, C-SPAN began real-time streaming of C-SPAN and C-SPAN2 on its website. This was the first time Congress had been live streamed online. To cover the Democratic and Republican conventions and the presidential debates of 2008, C-SPAN initiated two standalone websites: the Convention Hub and the Debate Hub. In addition to real-time streams of C-SPAN's television networks online, c-span.org also features further live programming such as committee hearings and speeches that are broadcast later in the day, after the House and Senate have left.
C-SPAN began promoting audience interaction early in its history, by the regular incorporation of viewer telephone calls in its programming. It has since expanded into social media, incorporating Twitter in its broadcasts. In March 2009, Twitter became an additional method for viewers to interact with guests on Washington Journal, with users of the service submitting questions live to the C-SPAN call-in program. The network also has a Facebook page to which it added occasional live streaming in January 2011. The live stream is intended to show selected well-publicized events of Congress. In June 2010, C-SPAN joined with the website Foursquare to provide users of the application with access to geotagged C-SPAN content at various locations in Washington, D.C.
In 2010 C-SPAN began a transition to high definition telecasts, planned to take place over an 18-month period. The network provided C-SPAN and C-SPAN2 in high definition on 1 June 2010, and C-SPAN3 in July 2010.
Senate and House of Representatives
The core programming of C-SPAN is live coverage of the U.S. House and Senate, with the primary C-SPAN channel emphasizing the United States House of Representatives. Between 1979 and May 2011, the network televised more than 24,246 hours of floor action. C-SPAN2, the first of the C-SPAN spin-off networks, provides uninterrupted live coverage of the United States Senate. With coverage of the House on C-SPAN and the Senate on C-SPAN2, viewers can track legislation as it moves through both bodies of Congress. A few important debates in Congress that C-SPAN has covered live include the Persian Gulf conflict during 1991, and the House impeachment vote and Senate trial of President Bill Clinton. During periods when the House or Senate are not in session, C-SPAN channels broadcast other public affairs programming.
The public affairs coverage on the C-SPAN networks other than the House and Senate floor debates is wide-ranging. C-SPAN is considered a useful source of information for journalists, lobbyists, educators and government officials as well as casual viewers interested in politics, due to its unedited coverage of political events. C-SPAN has been described by media observers as a "window into the world of Washington politics" and it characterizes its own mission as being "to provide public access to the political process". The networks cover U.S. political campaigns, including the Republican, Democratic and Libertarian presidential nominating conventions in their entirety. Coverage of presidential campaign events are provided during the duration of the campaign, both by a weekly television program, Road to the White House, and at its dedicated politics website.
All three channels televise events such as White House press briefings and presidential speeches, as well as other government meetings including Federal Communications Commission hearings and Pentagon press conferences. Other U.S. political coverage includes State of the Union speeches,congressional hearings and presidential press conferences. According to the results of a survey after the 1992 presidential election, 85% of C-SPAN viewers voted in that election. In addition to this political coverage, the network broadcasts press conferences and meetings of various news media and nonprofit organizations, including those at the National Press Club, public policy seminars and the White House Correspondents' Dinner. While C-SPAN does not have video access to the Supreme Court, the network has used the Court's audio recordings accompanied by still photographs of the justices and lawyers to cover the Court in session on significant cases, and has covered individual Supreme Court justices' speaking engagements.
Occasionally, proceedings of the Parliament of Canada, Parliament of the United Kingdom (usually Prime Minister's Questions and the State Opening of Parliament) and other governments are shown on C-SPAN when they discuss matters of importance to viewers in the U.S. Similarly, the networks will sometimes broadcast news reports from around the world when major events occur—for instance, C-SPAN broadcast CBC Television coverage of the September 11 attacks. Newscasts and other broadcasts in foreign languages are dubbed into English. After the deaths of Ronald Reagan in 2004, Rosa Parks in 2005 and Gerald Ford in 2006, C-SPAN featured live, uninterrupted coverage of the visitors who came to the Capitol Rotunda to pay their final respects and the funeral services. The network also broadcast Lady Bird Johnson's funeral in Stonewall, Texas. In 2005, C-SPAN covered Hurricane Katrina through New Orleans' NBC affiliate WDSU, as well as Hurricane Ike coverage via Houston's CBS affiliate KHOU. C-SPAN also carries CBC coverage during events that affect Canadians, such as the Canadian federal elections, the death and state funeral of Pierre Trudeau, and the 2003 North America blackout. During early 2011, C-SPAN carried broadcasts by Al Jazeera to cover the events in Egypt, Tunisia and other Arab nations. Additionally, C-SPAN simulcast NASA Space Shuttle mission launches and landings live, using the footage and audio from NASA TV.
With its public affairs programming, C-SPAN intends to offer different points of view, by allowing time for multiple opinions to be discussed on a given topic. For example, in 2004 C-SPAN intended to televise a speech by Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt adjacent to a speech by Holocaust denier David Irving, who had unsuccessfully sued Lipstadt for libel in the United Kingdom four years earlier; C-SPAN was criticized for its use of the word "balance" to describe the plan to cover both Lipstadt and Irving. When Lipstadt ended media access to her speech, C-SPAN canceled coverage of both.
The network strives for neutrality and a lack of bias; in all programming, the content is the emphasis and when on-camera hosts are present their role is simply to facilitate and explain proceedings to the viewer. Due to this policy, no C-SPAN host has said his or her own name on television.
C-SPAN and C-SPAN2 flagship programs
While many hours of programming on C-SPAN are dedicated to coverage of the House, the network's daily programming begins with the political telephone call-in and interview program Washington Journal every morning at 7 a.m. Eastern Time.Washington Journal began 4 January 1995 and has been broadcast every weekday morning since then, with guests including elected officials, government administrators and journalists. Among the hosts is the political editor Steve Scully, a native of Erie, Pennsylvania. The program covers current events, with guests answering questions on topics provided by the hosts as well as from members of the general public. On the weekend schedule, C-SPAN's main programs are: America and the Courts, which is shown each Saturday at 7 p.m. Eastern Time,Newsmakers, a Sunday morning interview program with newsworthy guests;Q&A, a Sunday evening interview program hosted by Brian Lamb, with guests including journalists, politicians, authors and other public figures; and the program The Communicators, which features interviews with prominent communications people including government officials and private sector representatives.
On weekends C-SPAN2 dedicates its schedule to non-fiction books, book events and authors, with 48 hours of programming called Book TV, first launched in September 1998. This includes: programs featuring historical books and biographies of public figures; In Depth, a live, monthly, three-hour interview with a single author; After Words and repeats of Booknotes.After Words is an author interview program featuring guest hosts interviewing authors on topics with which both are familiar. The program was developed as a new type of author-interview program after the end of production of Booknotes, which was C-SPAN's previous author-interview program. Booknotes was broadcast originally from 1989 to 2004, with a one-hour one-on-one interview of a non-fiction author as its format. Repeats of the interviews remain a regular part of the Book TV schedule with the title Encore Booknotes. The Book TV weekend programming also includes coverage of book events such as panel discussions, book fairs, book signings, readings by authors and tours of bookstores around the U.S.
The programming on C-SPAN3 from Monday to Friday features uninterrupted live public affairs events, in particular political events from Washington. Each weekend the network broadcasts 48 hours of programming dedicated to the history of the U.S., named American History TV, which was initiated 8 January 2011. The programming covers the history of the U.S. from the founding of the nation through the late 20th century. Programs include American Artifacts, which is dedicated to exploring museums, archives and historical sites, and Lectures in History, featuring major university history professors giving lectures on U.S. history. In 2009, C-SPAN3 aired an eight-installment series of interviews from the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas, which featured historian Richard Norton Smith and Vice President Walter Mondale, among other interviewees.
C-SPAN has occasionally produced spinoff programs from Booknotes focusing on specific topics. In 1994, Booknotes collaborated with Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer to produce a re-creation of the seven Lincoln–Douglas debates. Several years later, a similar series retraced the journey of Alexis de Tocqueville described in Democracy in America. Another special series was American Writers, a 38-week tour of the U.S. based on the works of 40 famous American writers.
During 2008 to 2009, as part of programming specially commissioned for the 200th birthday of Abraham Lincoln, C-SPAN produced a series titled Lincoln 200 Years, which featured episodes on a variety of topics relating to the life of Lincoln including his career, his homes and his opinions of slavery.
The network has also produced special feature documentaries of American institutions and historical landmarks, exploring their history to the present day. These programs include: The Capitol emphasizing the history, art and architecture of the U.S. Capitol Building;The White House, featuring film footage inside the White House and exploring the history of the building and its occupants;The Supreme Court, focusing on the history and personalities of the court; and Inside Blair House, an examination of the president's guest house.
In 2013, C-SPAN introduced a new program, First Ladies: Influence and Image. Thirty-five episodes profiling the First Ladies are planned for the series which was created with support from the White House Historical Association.
In addition to the three television networks, C-SPAN also broadcasts via C-SPAN Radio via WCSP 90.1 FM in Washington, D.C. and nationwide on XM Satellite Radio. Its programming is also livestreamed at c-span.org and is available via an iPhone app. C-SPAN Radio has a selective policy regarding its broadcast content, rather than duplicating the television network programming, although it does offer some audio simulcasts of programs such as Washington Journal. Unique programming on the radio station includes oral histories, and some committee meetings and press conferences not shown on television due to programming commitments. The station also compiles the Sunday morning talk shows for a same-day rebroadcast without commercials, in rapid succession.
C-SPAN archival video is available through the C-SPAN Video Library, maintained at the Purdue Research Park in West Lafayette, Indiana. First unveiled in August 2007, the C-SPAN Video Library contains all of the network’s programming since 1987, totaling more than 160,000 hours at its completion of digitization and public debut in March 2010. Older C-SPAN programming continues to be added to the library, dating back to the beginning of the network in 1979, although some limited earlier footage from the National Archives, such as film clips of Richard Nixon’s 1972 trip to China, is available as well. Most of the recordings before 1987 (when the C-SPAN Archive was established) were not saved, except approximately 10,000 hours of video which are slated to be made available online. Described by media commentators as a major educational service and a valuable resource for researchers of politics and history, the C-SPAN Video Library has also had a major role in media and opposition research in several U.S. political campaigns.
Prior to the initiation of the C-SPAN Video Library, websites such as Metavid and voterwatch.org hosted House and Senate video records. However C-SPAN contested Metavid's usage of C-SPAN copyrighted footage. The result was Metavid's removal of portions of the archive produced with C-SPAN's cameras, while preserving its archive of government-produced content. C-SPAN also engaged in actions to stop parties from making unauthorized uses of its content online, including its video of House and Senate proceedings. Most notably, in May 2006, C-SPAN requested the removal of Stephen Colbert's performance at the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner from YouTube. After concerns by some webloggers, C-SPAN gave permission for Google Video to host the full event. On 7 March 2007 C-SPAN liberalized its copyright policy for current, future, and past coverage of any official events sponsored by Congress and any federal agency and now allows for attributed non-commercial copying, sharing, and posting of C-SPAN video on the Internet, excluding re-syndication of live video streams. The new policy did not affect the public's right to use the public domain video coverage of the floor proceedings of the U.S. House and Senate.
In addition to the programming available in the C-SPAN Video Library, all C-SPAN programming is available as a live feed streamed on its website in Flash Video format. In 2008, C-SPAN's online political coverage was expanded just prior to the elections, with the introduction of three special pages on the C-SPAN website: the C-SPAN Convention Hubs and C-SPAN Debate Hub, which offered video of major events as well as discussion from weblogs and social media about the major party conventions and candidate debates.
Organization and operations
C-SPAN is operated by the National Cable Satellite Corporation, a nonprofit organization the board of directors of which consists primarily of representatives of the largest cable companies. Early chairmen of C-SPAN include Bob Rosencrans, John Saeman, Ed Allen and Gene Schneider. Funding for C-SPAN does not derive from advertising; instead, it receives nearly all of its funding from subscriber fees charged to cable and Direct-broadcast satellite (DBS) operators. As the network is an independent entity, neither the cable industry nor Congress controls the content of its programming.
As of January 2013[update], the network has 282 employees. C-SPAN is led by co-CEOs Rob Kennedy and Susan Swain. Founder and former CEO Brian Lamb serves as the executive chairman of the board of directors. The majority of C-SPAN's employees are based at C-SPAN's headquarters located on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., however in 2003 TV studios were opened in New York and Denver, Colorado. These studios use digital equipment that can be controlled from Washington. C-SPAN also maintains archives in West Lafayette, Indiana at the Purdue Research Park under the direction of Dr. Robert X. Browning.
The C-SPAN networks are available in more than 100 million households as of 2010[update], not including access to the C-SPAN websites. More than 7,000 telephone callers have participated with discussion on Washington Journal as of March 18, 2009[update]. There are not any official viewing statistics for C-SPAN because the network, which has no commercials or underwriting advertisements, does not use the Nielsen ratings, however there have been a number of surveys providing estimates.
- A 1994 survey found that 8.6% of the U.S. population regularly watched C-SPAN.
- In 2004 this figure increased to 12% of the U.S. population, according to a Pew Research Center survey, while 31% of the population was categorized as occasional viewers. Over 28 million people said they watched C-SPAN programming each week.
- A March 2009 Hart Research survey found that 20% of homes with cable TV watch C-SPAN at least once a week, for an estimated 39 million Americans.
- A 2010 poll conducted by C-SPAN and Penn Schoen Berland estimates that 79 million adults in the U.S. watched C-SPAN at some time from 2009 to 2010.
Of the 47 million regular C-SPAN viewers, 51% are male and 49% female; 26% are liberal, 31% conservative, and 39% moderate. About half are college graduates. Twenty-eight percent of 18-to-49-year-olds report watching at least once a week, as do 19% of 50-to-64-year-olds, and 22% of those over age 65.
Public and media opinion
A 2010 survey of C-SPAN's viewers found that the network's most-valued attribute was its balanced programming. The survey's respondents were a mixed group, with 31 percent describing themselves as "liberal," while 28 percent described themselves as "conservative", and the survey found that C-SPAN viewers are an equal mixture of men and women of all age groups.
C-SPAN's public service nature has been praised as an enduring contribution to national knowledge. The network has received positive media coverage for providing public access to proceedings such as the Goldman Sachs Senate hearings and the U.S. 2010 Healthcare Summit, while its everyday programming has been credited with providing the media and the general public with an intimate knowledge of U.S. political proceedings and people. The ability of C-SPAN to provide this service without federal funding, advertising or soliciting viewer contributions has been remarked by local newspapers and online news services, with the Huffington Post terming C-SPAN's $55 million dollar annual budget, "an astounding bargain." In an article on the 25th anniversary of the network, The Washington Post noted that C-SPAN's programming has been copied by television networks worldwide and credits the network with providing information about foreign politics to American viewers. According to The New York Times, C-SPAN's mission to record official events in Washington makes it "one of a kind", particularly in the creation of the C-SPAN Video Library, which received significant press coverage.
Despite its stated commitment to providing politically balanced programming, C-SPAN and its shows such as Washington Journal, Booknotes, Q & A, and Afterwords have been accused by liberal organizations of having a conservative bias. In 2005, the media criticism organization Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) released a study of C-SPAN's morning telephone call-in show Washington Journal, showing that Republicans were favored as guests over Democrats by a two-to-one margin during a six-month period that year, and that people of color are underrepresented.
The must-carry regulations, passed by Congress in 1992, affected the availability of the C-SPAN networks, in particular C-SPAN2, as some providers chose to discontinue the channel altogether. Between 1993 and 1994 cable systems in 95 U.S. cities dropped or reduced broadcasts of C-SPAN and C-SPAN2, following the implementation of the must-carry regulations. Viewers protested these decisions, especially when the changes coincided with matters of local interest occurring in the House or Senate. Some communities, such as Eugene, Oregon and Alexandria, Virginia, were successful in restoring C-SPAN availability. C-SPAN availability was also restored in areas where improvements of technology allowed for mandatory stations and the C-SPAN networks both to be broadcast.
Other C-SPAN services
C-SPAN offers a number of public services related to the network's public affairs programming. A free membership service for teachers named C-SPAN Classroom was begun by C-SPAN in July 1987, offering help for using C-SPAN resources for classes or research. In November 1993, C-SPAN began the C-SPAN School Bus, which travels around the U.S. educating the public about government and politics using C-SPAN resources. The bus also records video footage of the places that it visits. A new version of the bus, the C-SPAN Digital Bus was launched in 2010, introducing the public to C-SPAN's enhanced digital products. C-SPAN has also initiated three Local Content Vehicles (LCVs) to travel the country and record unique political and historical stories, with each vehicle containing production and web-based technologies to produce on-the-spot content.
C-SPAN also has published ten books based on its programming, containing material both original and taken from interview transcripts. These include five books drawn from the former Booknotes program: Booknotes: Life Stories,Booknotes: On American Character, Booknotes: Stories from American History,Booknotes: America's Finest Authors on Reading, Writing and the Power of Ideas, the latter a compilation of short monologues taken from the transcripts of Lamb’s interviews, and a companion book to the series on Tocqueville, Traveling Tocqueville's America: A Tour Book. The first published C-SPAN book, C-SPAN: America's Town Hall, was published in 1988. Since then C-SPAN has published four more books: Gavel to Gavel: A C-SPAN Guide to Congress, Who's Buried in Grant's Tomb?, a guide to the grave sites of U.S. presidents,Abraham Lincoln - Great American Historians On Our Sixteenth President, a collection of essays based on C-SPAN interviews with American historians, and The Supreme Court, which features biographies and interviews with past Supreme Court judges together with commentary from legal experts.
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