Open the House to C-Span
Byline: THE WASHINGTON TIMES
After promising throughout the 2006 congressional campaign to give Americans the "most open" Congress in history, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi passed up a golden opportunity to advance that commitment. Three days before Christmas, Mrs. Pelosi disappointed millions of C-SPAN viewers by rejecting C-SPAN's request to use its own cameras and operators to televise House proceedings. Unless she changes her mind, C-SPAN viewers will continue to be shortchanged. Their view of democracy in action inside the People's House would remain strictly confined to the podium.
The good news is that Mrs. Pelosi may change her mind. She and C-SPAN Chairman and CEO Brian Lamb will soon be meeting to discuss the issue. Since C-SPAN began televising debates in the House in 1979, the cameras have been controlled by the speaker, beginning with Democratic Speaker Tip O'Neill and later including the speakerships of Republicans Newt Gingrich and Dennis Hastert. There has been bipartisan agreement among speakers to limit C-SPAN viewers to static, head-on shots of the representative who is speaking at the podium. Mrs. Pelosi can celebrate her historic election as the first woman speaker by unilaterally deciding to bring the House's televised debates into the 21st century.
Having spent a quarter century scrupulously demonstrating C-SPAN's nonpartisan, good-government bona fides, Mr. Lamb has rightly believed for some time that the speaker-controlled cameras have become "an anachronism that does a disservice to the institution and to the public. …