Demand Progress Education Fund and Freedom of the Press Foundation led a broad coalition of press freedom organizations, government accountability and civil liberties organizations, and media outlets in urging House leadership to let C-SPAN have independent control of cameras that broadcast and stream House floor proceedings.
The group sent a letter today to Speaker McCarthy and Democratic Leader Jeffries endorsed by organizations spanning the ideological spectrum.
“When C-SPAN is able to call its own shots, the American public benefits by getting an authentic and transparent view of how Congress functions and the mood of the chamber,” said Daniel Schuman, policy director at Demand Progress Education Fund. “We can see what really happens on the House floor, such as unexpected bipartisan negotiations like when Reps. Ocasio-Cortez and Gosar had a one-on-one conversation during the Speaker vote-a-rama.”
“People on both sides of the aisle agree that it’s unAmerican for politicians to control news cameras,” said Seth Stern, advocacy director of Freedom of the Press Foundation. “Transparency is vital to our democracy and there is no reason for House rules to restrict the press and public from viewing the best possible footage of their representatives in action.”
Signatories to the letter include Lincoln Network, TechFreedom, Committee to Protect Journalists, Reporters Without Borders, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Free Press Action, National Press Club, National Press Photographers Association, Radio Television News Directors Association, PEN America, and Project on Government Oversight.
Because the House had not adopted its official rules for the 118th Congress before the votes for the Speaker of the House, C-SPAN was able to direct its cameras and provide more dynamic coverage of lawmakers during the session.
The current video rules date back to 1978 and only allow C-SPAN to show static views of the Speaker’s dais and podium captured by permanently installed robotic cameras operated by the House Recording Studio. There are rare exceptions when Congress allows other independent media to cover Joint Sessions and Joint Meetings.
Independent of today’s action, C-SPAN sent its own letter to Speaker McCarthy last week, and has made similar requests dating back to 1994. Additionally, Rep. Pocan introduced legislation and Rep. Gaetz offered an amendment to the House rules package addressing this issue.