The Democratizer: C-SPAN's Brian Lamb Talks about Big Spending, the First Amendment, and Putting Cameras Where Government Doesn't Want Them to Go

By Gillespie, Nick | Reason, December 2010 | Go to article overview

The Democratizer: C-SPAN's Brian Lamb Talks about Big Spending, the First Amendment, and Putting Cameras Where Government Doesn't Want Them to Go


Gillespie, Nick, Reason


[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

IN 2003 reason named C-SPAN founder Brian Lamb one of our "35 Heroes of Freedom" for "turning a surveillance camera on the den of iniquity known as the U.S. House of Representatives." America now takes it for granted that legislative debates, confirmation hearings, and White House press briefings will be broadcast somewhere on live television, and Brian Lamb is one of the main reasons why.

A famously stone-faced interviewer comfortable grilling figures from across the political spectrum without revealing his own leanings, Lamb, 69, actually got his start in television on an Indiana-based pop music show called Dance Date; he played drums for local bands while getting his undergraduate degree from Purdue. After a tour in the Navy, Lamb did press relations for Robert McNamara's Defense Department and then worked for the Nixon administration, experiences that cemented his conviction that governments should be as open as possible. C-SPAN started the process of televised openness in 1979.

Though he keeps his personal politics close to the vest, Lamb has some strong views about government spending, regulation, and maintaining a Chinese wall between media and state, reason.tv Editor Nick Gillespie sat down with the C-SPAN founder for a wide-ranging-and far from stonefaced--interview this summer. Video versions are available at reason.tv.

reason: What have you been doing to get C-SPAN's cameras into the Supreme Court?

Brian Lamb: We've been waiting and waiting and waiting. It's like every other institution of government. There's always a time when they decide, when it's right for them. The Senate was closed to everybody for the first five years-everybody. You couldn't go watch a debate. The Court is the last institution in the federal government to bar cameras, and I think we've got a while before we're going to get there.

reason: What is the great benefit of taking C-SPAN-style transparency to the Supreme Court?

Lamb: It's really a very simple thing. It's a government institution that's funded by the American taxpayers. The individuals who work there all get paid by the taxpayer. And the decisions aren't even reached in that courtroom; they're reached behind closed doors. The oral arguments are a public discussion, a public back-and-forth between the attorneys. It almost never lasts more than an hour, and it only happens 75 to 80 times a year. It's not really that big a deal, and it just completes the picture that the public could have of the government they pay money to.

reason: Are all of the Supreme Court justices against it, or are there differences of opinions ?

Lamb: We don't really know. There's never been a public vote. I asked Justice [Stephen] Breyer once in an interview, "Have you ever talked about it in the Court?" He said basically no, they hadn't. I suspect they talk about it informally. I've only ever seen evidence of a vote once, and it came out in, of all things, an Irish magazine in which they were doing a special on William Brennan. If my memory serves me, he was the only one who had voted in favor of it out of the nine.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

reason: People worry cameras will create a false sense of drama for oral arguments, that the judges and the lawyers will play to the cameras. Should that be a concern?

Lamb: It's certainly not a concern to me, but it is a concern to individual Supreme Court justices, and they make the decision.

reason: The justices, partly because they are hidden from plain view, still have a kind of priestly mystery around them. Are they afraid that cameras will demystify their power? It is like going behind the curtain in Oz.

Lamb: I think there are a lot of things at work, and every individual justice is different. One of the factors is that they have the most respected institution among the government institutions, and so they're just kind of saying, "Why change? …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

The Democratizer: C-SPAN's Brian Lamb Talks about Big Spending, the First Amendment, and Putting Cameras Where Government Doesn't Want Them to Go
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    New feature

    It is estimated that 1 in 10 people have dyslexia, and in an effort to make Questia easier to use for those people, we have added a new choice of font to the Reader. That font is called OpenDyslexic, and has been designed to help with some of the symptoms of dyslexia. For more information on this font, please visit OpenDyslexic.org.

    To use OpenDyslexic, choose it from the Typeface list in Font settings.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.