Reason Podcast

Lies About Vietnam Inspired Brian Lamb To Start C-SPAN: Podcast

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Forty years ago, one of the most momentous events in the history of politics and television took place: C-SPAN started broadcasting live, gavel-to-gavel coverage of the United States House of Representatives.

Long before reality TV shows like Real World, Survivor, Real Housewives, Big Brother, and Sober House, C-SPAN gave Americans direct access to one of the most powerful groups of people on the planet. For the first time in history, we could see our elected representatives debating, wheeling and dealing, freaking out, and occasionally falling asleep while debating government spending, foreign policy, and more.

Over the years, C-SPAN has expanded to include coverage of the Senate; daily public affairs shows featuring policy experts, activists, journalists, and lawmakers; long-form interviews with authors and other influential people; and coverage of events all around the country. In a world in which elite decisionmakers want to shield themselves from all forms of scrutiny and observation, C-SPAN performs the radical intervention of putting a camera on them while also engaging them in thoughtful, frank, and fair conversation.

For today's Reason Podcast, I talked to C-SPAN's founder Brian Lamb, who has managed to shine a bright light on the political process while simultaneously creating a model of civil discourse that is unmatched in cable news. The 77-year-old Indiana native tells me how working in the Pentagon during Vietnam inspired him to push for "openness" in government, why he's still pushing for cameras to cover oral arguments in the Supreme Court, and how C-SPAN expects to weather its next 40 years.

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Photo credit: CHUCK KENNEDY KRT/Newscom

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13 responses to “Lies About Vietnam Inspired Brian Lamb To Start C-SPAN: Podcast

  1. I used to think cameras in SCOTUS were a good idea, but then I grew up and realized it is a terrible idea. The public has access to all the transcripts and everything that happens. MAYBE audio could be released, but we all know that any good that could come from the transparency would be vastly outweighed by the negative consequences of politicians and pundits taking dishonest clips and out-of-context quotes and playing them to the public.

    Can they do that now? Sure. But things printed in the press spread a low slower and are more easily fact checked against the whole transcript. Imagine a conservative justice asking a clearly rhetorical question, and the clip being played everywhere without any context, as if it was a serious representation of their views. It would be disastrous.

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  2. For the record, when C-Span shows the floor of the house and senate, they aren’t showing elected officials wheeling and dealing, or debating the merits of things, or trying to convince anyone to support or oppose anything. Its little more than a staged performance to say they are going through the motions, or get a dig in at those who are opposite them.

    The wheeling and dealing, and debate(if any) all happens off the floor, safely outside the view of cameras.

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  4. Although sometimes given out like candy and made useless (i.e. Tom Hanks….Bruce Springsteen…Ellen DeGeneres) Lamb deserves a Medal of Freedom.

    Some years ago, CSPAN1 went from a meeting of the John Birch Society to one of Gus Hall and CPUSA.

    THAT….is the definition of fair and complete coverage.

  5. It was watching watching on C-SPAN , and then seeing NOTHING on the MSM evening news ,

    the poor working schmucks in the Telegraph and Travel Office tell Congress what Hillary did to them ,
    and the Senate’s acceptance of Bill’s lying under oath which got him disbarred by AR

    which turned me into a Libertarian activist .

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  11. Always watched CSPAN in mornings before going to work. Loved thee expansion to “Booknotes” -great reading list.

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