The C-SPAN Revolution

By Foust, James C. | Journalism History, Summer 1997 | Go to article overview

The C-SPAN Revolution


Foust, James C., Journalism History


Frantzich, Stephen and John Sullivan. The C-SPAN Revolution. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1996. 433 pp. $24.95.

In the mid-1970s, according to Stephen Frantzich and John Sullivan, television's political coverage reached its nadir. "The public began to distrust the established media almost as much as they distrusted policymakers," they write. But that situation would soon improve. Although the networks had no plans to alter their soundbite-based coverage, the growth of cable television was creating new opportunities. Cable companies were hungry for new programming, especially the type that might raise their fortunes in the eyes of politicians and the public.

Enter Brian Lamb. The Indiana native, who had held several media positions in Washington during the 1960s and 1970s, had an idea for improving coverage of the political process in the media. It was a simple one, according to Frantzich and Sullivan: "Show the American people what their government is doing, and let them see the action undiluted."

The C-SPAN Revolution tells the story of bow Lamb's simple idea has developed. From the network's first day of coverage of the House of Representatives on March 19, 1979, to the present, Frantzich and Sullivan chronicle C-SPAN's efforts and the reactions of politicians and the public. Frantzich, a professor of political science at the U.S. Naval Academy, and Sullivan, an associate professor of English at the University of Virginia, are C-SPAN "insiders." Both have been involved in seminars to help teachers use C-SPAN in the classroom and in preparation for the book were allowed to access the network's files, sit in on meetings and interview network personnel.

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