Why I Founded C-SPAN: Brian Lamb Tells All (Including His Crush on Brenda Lee)


Original release date was March 19, 2014 and original writeup is below.

On March 19, 1979, C-SPAN first aired proceedings of the U.S. House of Representatives. American politics and media would never be the same.

Over the next 35 years, C-SPAN would expand its offerings to include coverage of the Senate, a wide variety of interview programs and live events, Book TV, radio broadcasts, and much more.

At the center of the C-SPAN story is Brian Lamb, who not only conceived the network but redefined the long-form television interview with a style that has been called stoic, spartan, laconic—and unbelievably effective in producing fascinating, revealing conversations.

Born in Indiana in 1941, Lamb told Reason that his interest in offering unmediated coverage of official legislative proceedings stemmed in part from his job in the Pentagon's public affairs office during the Vietnam War. "I kept saying to myself," Lamb recalled, "there's something wrong there. This ought to be an open situation, and the more closed it is and the more insular it is, the more both sides can fool the public for their own reasons. And we found ourselves in a major war, 500,000 troops deployed and 58,000 people killed."

Despite the immeasurable public value it provides, C-SPAN has never taken a dime of taxpayer money, always proudly insisting that it was "created by cable" and is funded by pay-television operations at no cost to taxpayers or cable subscribers.

In 2003 Reason named Lamb one of our 35 Heroes of Freedom, writing "The Great Stone Face of C-SPAN has produced more must-see TV than anyone else in the history of the medium. There's no reason to pick a favorite among the likes of BooknotesWashington Journal, and all the other C-SPAN fare, but his greatest contribution may well be his first: turning a surveillance camera on the den of iniquity known as the U.S. House of Representatives." In 2012, Lamb stepped down as CEO of C-SPAN, though he still appears on the network.

In 2010, Reason TV's Nick Gillespie talked with Lamb about his attempt to get cameras in the Supreme Court (watch our video about that here). We also took the opportunity to have a wide-ranging—and distinctively non-stone-faced—discussion about the network, Lamb's views on politics, and a possible alternate career choice as a drummer for Merle Haggard or Brenda Lee. In celebration of C-SPAN's 35th anniversary, we're happy to release this conversation with Lamb.

About 40 minutes. Produced by Meredith Bragg. Additional camera: Dan Hayes and Joshua Swain.

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NEXT: Sheldon Richman on Ukraine and the American Interventionist Disease

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  1. Bernie Madoff, locked in a horrible dungeon, tries to endure the tortuous condition:

    “But he did not grouse much about prison life.

    “He has freedom to move about the compound, where the cells are not locked at night. His biggest complaint is boredom, and he passes the time by taking long walks and reading for hours each day. The room he shares with a Texan inmate is comfortable enough with desks, bunk beds, and chairs, as well as a window that looks out on to the yard.

    “”It’s actually very pretty,” he said. “More like a college campus.” He added, “Everything’s provided for you.”

    “Madoff said he gets up at 4 a.m. and is usually in bed by 8 p.m. To pass the time, Madoff said he mostly reads, and also watches several hours of television news each day and listens to radio news ? including the “conservative nut jobs.””

    [multiple-page article]


    1. Madoff said he registered as a Democrat long ago but now considers himself an independent.

      Sounds like Kennedy found her next interview.

  2. Is there a Reason this four year old interview is being dusted off and repeatedly reposted?

    1. Nick just wants to show everyone his awesome unauthorized King of the Hill ringtone.

    2. Because it isn’t four years old?

      1. Or maybe it is. Beatsme

  3. And we found ourselves in a major war, 500,000 troops deployed and 58,000 people killed

    This line reminds me of something completely off topic. Remember the nightly update of how many soldiers were killed in Iraq/Afghanistan when BOOOOSH was in office? What ever happened to them? Somewhere we went over 5k (5281) and I hadn’t heard a word about it.

    Here is a graphic of Afghanistan deaths.

    Fuck the water carrying biased media!

    1. Wait. This source puts the number at 6801.

      Can’t even find a good number now.

      1. Those are “coalition” numbers, not U.S. numbers.

        1. ?

          US Iraq- 4486
          US Afgh- 2315

          Total – 6801

          At the risk of doing math in public.

    2. What is there to report? Obama ended all wars when he came into office. He did it right after he made the oceans recede.

    3. The same thing happened with the homeless when Clinton took office. One report a week under Bush I, and then no reports for 8 years.

  4. In an invite-only program, Google’s Youtube gives roughly 200 people, government agencies, and organizations the power to flag up to 20 videos at a time.

  5. Texas Double Standard on Disclosure Requirements for Abortion Drugs vs. Lethal Injection Drugs

    “Texas is a pro-life state. If you sell drugs that kill unborn babies?or, to be a bit more technical, if you offer nonsurgical abortions using an FDA-approved combination of mifepristone and misoprostol?the state will demand lots of information from you. It will also provide information about you to the public. Citizens are entitled to know what you do.

    If, however, you sell drugs to the state for its favorite pro-life activity?killing fully born people who have murdered others?the state will protect you. It will hide your complicity, even under direct questioning.”


    1. It’s almost as if Texas distinguishes between the innocent and the guilty. How inconsistent!

      1. Er, the regulations seem to be about the makers/providers of the drugs, not the recipients.

  6. Dianne Feinstein is the Worst, Most Despicable Congressperson, Exhibit E

    Dianne Feinstein is a original co-sponsor of the Protect IP (PIPA) Act, the Senate’s version of SOPA act, which civil libertarians and Senators such as Ron Wyden and Rand Paul have worked to stop.


    Running tab:
    Exhibit A: voted for Iraq War, when it became unpopular lied about being misled by Bush administration
    Exhibit B: one of few Democrat sponsors of Flag Desecration Amendment
    Exhibit C: Co-sponsor and voted for McCain Feingold
    Exhibit D: As mayor of San Francisco, supported and signed bill to ban handguns

    1. * Partial list.

  7. My friend David “Davar” Lindelof gave me the opp’ty to see an early screen appearance of Brian Lamb: playing a disc jockey (which he also was IRL) in the 8 mm sound & color movie John Strathman made with Davar as undergrads at IU, Whisper of Evil. Lamb was cast after the camera with expensive sound film had been left in the hands of someone who couldn’t help but document a silo fire he happened upon. Not wanting to waste the footage, they wrote around the action, making the silo the b’cast tower of a radio station the mummy had set fire to to divert att’n.

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