[GOTO 95 logo]

[ Home | Weather | Wiki | RSS | HN | xkcd ] [ Search | Settings | About ]


[ Related articles | Random article | Open in Wikipedia ]

C-SPAN Robert Byrd Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network is an American cable and satellite television network, created in 1979 by the cable television industry as a nonprofit public service. It televises proceedings of the United States federal government and other public affairs programming. C-SPAN is a private, nonprofit organization funded by its cable and satellite affiliates. It does not have advertisements on any of its networks or radio stations, nor does it solicit donations or pledges. The network operates independently; the cable industry and the U.S. Congress have no control over its programming content.

The C-SPAN network includes the television channels C-SPAN, focusing on the U.S. House of Representatives; C-SPAN2, focusing on the U.S. Senate; and C-SPAN3, airing other government hearings and related programming; the radio station WCSP-FM; and a group of websites which provide streaming media and program archives. C-SPAN's television channels are available to approximately 100 million cable and satellite households within the United States. WCSP-FM is broadcast on FM radio in Washington, D.C., and is available throughout the U.S. on SiriusXM, via Internet streaming, and globally through iOS and Android apps.

The network televises U.S. political events, particularly live and "gavel-to-gavel" coverage of the U.S. Congress, as well as other major events worldwide. Coverage of political and policy events is unmoderated, providing the audience with unfiltered information about politics and government. Non-political coverage includes historical programming, programs dedicated to non-fiction books, and interview programs with noteworthy individuals associated with public policy.

Table of contents
  1. History
  2. Programming
  3. Organization and operations
  4. Audience
  5. Public and media opinion
  6. Other services
  7. Publications
  8. See also



Brian Lamb, C-SPAN's chairman and former chief executive officer, conceived C-SPAN in 1975 while working as the Washington, D.C., bureau chief of Cablevision. Cable television was a rapidly growing industry, and Lamb envisioned a non-profit network, financed by the cable industry, that televised Congressional sessions, public affairs events, and policy discussions. Bob Rosencrans, providing $25,000 of initial funding in 1979, and John D. Evans, providing wiring and access to the headend needed for the distribution of the C-SPAN signal, were among those who helped Lamb launch the network. At meetings with House of Representatives leadership, Lamb and Rosencrans promised that the network would be non-political, which helped override broadcast and local network resistance.

C-SPAN launched on March 19, 1979, for the first televised session made available by the House of Representatives, beginning with a speech by then-Tennessee representative Al Gore. Upon its debut, only 3.5 million homes were wired for C-SPAN, and the network had just three employees. For the first few years C-SPAN leased satellite time from the USA Network and had approximately 9 hours of daily programming. On February 1, 1982, C-SPAN launched its own transponder and expanded programming to 16 hours a day; the arrangement with the USA Network was discontinued two months later. C-SPAN began full-time operations on September 13, 1982.

Channel expansion and access

C-SPAN2 launched on June 2, 1986, to cover Senate proceedings, and began full-time operations on January 5, 1987. The Senate had debated allowing television coverage for over two years, with Majority Leader Howard Baker introducing the first, failed, resolution to allow cameras onto the floor and Senator William L. Armstrong finally succeeding in televising Senate proceedings.

In 1992, Congress passed must-carry regulations, which required cable carriers to allocate spectrum to local broadcasters. This affected the availability of C-SPAN, especially C-SPAN2, in some areas as some providers chose to discontinue carriage of the channel altogether. Between 1993 and 1994, cable systems in 95 U.S. cities dropped or reduced broadcasts of C-SPAN and C-SPAN2. Viewers protested these decisions, and some communities, such as Eugene, Oregon and Alexandria, Virginia, were successful in restoring C-SPAN availability. C-SPAN availability was broadly restored when technological improvements expanded channel capacity and allowed for both mandatory stations and the C-SPAN networks to be broadcast.

C-SPAN3, the most recent expansion channel, began full-time operations on January 22, 2001. It airs public policy and government-related events on weekdays, historical programming on weeknights and weekends, and sometimes serves as an overflow channel for live programming conflicts on C-SPAN and C-SPAN2. C-SPAN3 is the successor of a digital channel called C-SPAN Extra, which was launched in the Washington, D.C., area in 1997, and televised live and recorded political events on weekdays. C-SPAN Radio also began operations in 1997, covering similar events as the television networks and often simulcasting their programming.

In 2010, C-SPAN began a transition to high definition telecasts, planned to take place over an 18-month period. The network provided C-SPAN and C-SPAN2 in high definition on June 1, 2010, and C-SPAN3 in July 2010.

Lamb semi-retired in March 2012 and gave executive control of the network to his two lieutenants, Rob Kennedy and Susan Swain.

Online presence and controversy

In January 1997, C-SPAN began real-time streaming of C-SPAN and C-SPAN2 on its website. To cover the Democratic and Republican conventions and the presidential debates of 2008, C-SPAN created two standalone websites: the Convention Hub and the Debate Hub. C-span.org features further live programming such as committee hearings and speeches that are broadcast later in the day, after the House and Senate have left.

Between the late 1980s and 2011 prank callers frequently called into C-SPAN, with calls ranging from crude jokes about Howard Stern and Bababooey to racist tirades against Martin Luther King Jr. On January 12, 2017, the online feed for C-SPAN1 was interrupted and replaced by a feed from the Russian television network RT America for approximately 10 minutes. C-SPAN announced that they were troubleshooting the incident and were "operating under the assumption that it was an internal routing issue."

Camera access

C-SPAN broadcasts video feed, but does not control the placement or number of cameras on the House and Senate floor. Arguments over C-SPAN's camera in the House and Senate began as early as 1984, with a fight between Democrats and Republicans over camera angles. At the time C-SPAN only broadcast a shot of the person speaking. The Conservative Opportunity Society, led by Newt Gingrich, took advantage of this by delivering speeches to an empty chamber, at times referring to Democrats who were not actually there. Speaker Tip O'Neill, annoyed by the speeches, ordered the camera to display a wide-shot of the empty chamber without alerting the Republicans. The incident turned into a widely publicized argument between Gingrich and O'Neill.

After the 1984 incident, the House allowed both wide-angle shots and close-ups of the speaker until 1994, when they reverted back to just close-up shots in an effort to make the House look "more dignified." The Senate, which had allowed cameras since 1987, had always only allowed close-ups.

In 1994, C-SPAN requested increased camera access from both the Senate and the House of Representatives, and for permission to bring their own cameras. They asked permission to pan for wide reaction shots, and install cameras for House-Senate conference committees and off-floor interviews, among other things. They also asked permission to have C-SPAN employees man the cameras instead of government employees. These requests were rejected. Speaker Dennis Hastert rejected similar requests in 1999, as well as incoming Speaker Nancy Pelosi in 2006. A December 2009 request to film healthcare negotiations was similarly denied.

In 2011, C-SPAN again requested to bring cameras onto the House floor. Incoming Speaker John Boehner rejected the request, though he did allow reporters on the floor for 'special events.'

On June 22 and 23, 2016, C-SPAN took video footage of the House floor from individual House representatives via streaming services Periscope and Facebook Live during a sit-in by House Democrats asking for a vote on gun control measures after the Orlando nightclub shooting. The sit-in was out of formal session and while the House was in official recess, so the existing House cameras could not be used to cover the event. These live streams violated House rules on use of personal devices on the floor, which C-SPAN noted through on-air disclaimers.

In January 2023, C-SPAN gained widespread attention for its broadcast of the Speaker of the House vote. As the House was not in session, C-SPAN had been given permission for its cameras to roam the House floor, and capture new angles in addition to the often-permitted wide-angle and speaker close-up. After Kevin McCarthy was confirmed as Speaker, camera permissions reverted back to what had previously been permitted.


Senate and House of Representatives

The C-SPAN network's core programming is live coverage of the U.S. House and Senate, with the C-SPAN channel emphasizing the United States House of Representatives. Between 1979 and May 2011, the network televised more than 24,246 hours of floor action. C-SPAN2, the first of the C-SPAN spin-off networks, provides uninterrupted live coverage of the United States Senate. With coverage of the House and Senate, viewers can track legislation as it moves through both bodies of Congress. Important debates in Congress that C-SPAN has covered live include the Persian Gulf conflict during 1991, and the House impeachment vote and Senate trial of President Bill Clinton in 1998 and 1999 as well as the impeachment proceedings of President Trump in 2019 and 2020. When the House or Senate are not in session, C-SPAN channels broadcast other public affairs programming and recordings of previous events.

Public affairs

The public affairs coverage on the C-SPAN networks other than the House and Senate floor debates is wide-ranging. C-SPAN is considered a useful source of information for journalists, lobbyists, educators and government officials as well as casual viewers interested in politics, due to its unedited coverage of political events. C-SPAN has been described by media observers as a "window into the world of Washington politics" and it characterizes its own mission as being "to provide public access to the political process". The networks cover U.S. political campaigns, including the Republican, Democratic, and Libertarian presidential nominating conventions in their entirety. Coverage of presidential campaign events are provided during the duration of the campaign, both by a weekly television program, Road to the White House, and at its dedicated politics website. C-SPAN also covers midterm elections.

All three channels televise events such as congressional hearings, White House press briefings and presidential speeches, as well as other government meetings including Federal Communications Commission hearings and Pentagon press conferences. Other U.S. political coverage includes State of the Union speeches, and presidential press conferences. According to the results of a survey after the 1992 presidential election, 85% of C-SPAN viewers voted in that election. The results of a similar survey in 2013 found that 89% of C-SPAN viewers voted in the 2012 presidential election. In addition to this political coverage, the network broadcasts press conferences and meetings of various news media and nonprofit organizations, including those at the National Press Club, public policy seminars and the White House Correspondents' Dinner. While C-SPAN does not have video access to the Supreme Court, the network has used the Court's audio recordings accompanied by still photographs of the justices and lawyers to cover the Court in session on significant cases, and has covered individual Supreme Court justices' speaking engagements.

Occasionally, proceedings of the Parliament of Australia, Parliament of Canada, Parliament of the United Kingdom (usually Prime Minister's Questions and the State Opening of Parliament) and other governments are shown on C-SPAN when they discuss matters of importance to viewers in the U.S. Similarly, the networks will sometimes broadcast news reports from around the world when major events occur - for instance, C-SPAN broadcast CBC Television coverage of the September 11 attacks. C-SPAN also covers lying in state in the Capitol Rotunda and funerals of former presidents and other notable individuals. In 2005, C-SPAN covered Hurricane Katrina through NBC affiliate WDSU in New Orleans, as well as coverage of Hurricane Ike via CBS affiliate KHOU in Houston. C-SPAN also carries CBC coverage during events that affect Canadians, such as the Canadian federal elections, the death and state funeral of Pierre Trudeau, and the 2003 North America blackout. During early 2011, C-SPAN carried broadcasts by Al Jazeera to cover the events in Egypt, Tunisia, and other Arab nations. Additionally, C-SPAN simulcasts NASA Space Shuttle mission launches and landings live, using video footage and audio sourced from NASA TV.

With its public affairs programming, C-SPAN intends to offer different viewpoints by allowing time for multiple opinions to be discussed on a given topic. For example, in 2004 C-SPAN intended to televise a speech by Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt adjacent to a speech by Holocaust denier David Irving, who had unsuccessfully sued Lipstadt for libel in the United Kingdom four years earlier; C-SPAN was criticized for its use of the word "balance" to describe the plan to cover both Lipstadt and Irving. When Lipstadt ended media access to her speech, C-SPAN canceled coverage of both.

The network strives for neutrality and a lack of bias; in all programming when on-camera hosts are present their role is simply to facilitate and explain proceedings to the viewer. Due to this policy, C-SPAN hosts do not state their names on television.

C-SPAN and C-SPAN2 flagship programs

C-SPAN covers floor proceedings of the House of Representatives, while C-SPAN 2 covers floor proceedings of the Senate. Although many hours of programming on C-SPAN are dedicated to coverage of the House, the network's daily programming begins with the political phone-in and interview program Washington Journal from 7:00 to 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time. Washington Journal premiered on January 4, 1995, and has been broadcast every morning since then, with guests including elected officials, government administrators, and journalists. The program covers current events, with guests answering questions on topics presented by the hosts, as well as questions from members of the general public. On weeknights C-SPAN2 dedicates its schedule to Politics and Public Policy Today (9:00 p.m. - midnight for the East Coast primetime, replayed immediately for the West Coast primetime), which is a block of recordings of the day's noteworthy events in rapid succession. On the weekend schedule, C-SPAN's main program is Q&A, a Sunday evening interview program hosted by Susan Swain, with guests including journalists, politicians, authors, and other public figures.

On weekends, C-SPAN2 dedicates its schedule to Book TV, which is 48 hours of programming about non-fiction books, book events, and authors. Book TV was launched in September 1998. Booknotes was originally broadcast from 1989 to 2004, as a one-hour one-on-one interview of a non-fiction author. Repeats of the interviews remain a regular part of the Book TV schedule with the title Encore Booknotes. Other Book TV programs feature political and historical books and biographies of public figures. These include In Depth, a live, monthly, three-hour interview with a single author, and After Words, an author interview program featuring guest hosts interviewing authors on topics with which both are familiar. After Words was developed as a new type of author interview program after the end of production of Booknotes. Weekend programming on Book TV also includes coverage of book events such as panel discussions, book fairs, book signings, readings by authors and tours of bookstores around the U.S.


C-SPAN 3 covers public affairs events, congressional hearings and history programming. The weekday programming on C-SPAN3 (from the morning -- anywhere from 6 to 8:30 a.m. -- to 8 p.m. Eastern Time) features uninterrupted live public affairs events, in particular political events from Washington, D.C. Each weekend since January 8, 2011, the network has broadcast 48 hours of programming dedicated to the history of the United States, under the umbrella title American History TV. The programming covers the history of the U.S. from the founding of the nation through the late 20th century. Programs include American Artifacts, which is dedicated to exploring museums, archives and historical sites, and Lectures in History, featuring major university history professors giving lectures on U.S. history. In 2009, C-SPAN3 aired an eight-installment series of interviews from the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas, which featured historian Richard Norton Smith and Vice President Walter Mondale, among other interviewees.

Special programming

C-SPAN has also occasionally produced special episodes and series. In 1989, C-SPAN celebrated its 10th anniversary with a three-hour retrospective on the history of the network. In 1994, Booknotes collaborated with Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer to produce reenactments of the 1858 Lincoln-Douglas debates for the network's 15th anniversary. The Alexis de Tocqueville Tour: Exploring Democracy in America and American Writers: A Journey Through History took viewers on tours of the United States, themed around Alexis de Tocqueville's travels and the works of 40 famous American writers, respectively. The year-long series American Presidents: Life Portraits, produced to commemorate the 20th anniversary of C-SPAN, won a Peabody Award. The network has also produced special feature documentaries on the history of various American institutions and landmarks. In 2005, C-SPAN hosted a 25-hour "call-in marathon" and essay contest, the winner of which was invited to co-host an hour of the broadcast, to commemorate 25 years of taking viewer telephone calls.

Radio broadcasts

In addition to the three television networks, C-SPAN also broadcasts via C-SPAN Radio, which is carried on their owned-and-operated station WCSP-FM (90.1 FM) in the Washington, D.C., area with all three cable network feeds airing via HD Radio subchannels, and nationwide on XM Satellite Radio. Its programming is also livestreamed at c-span.org and is available via apps for iPhone, BlackBerry and Android devices. C-SPAN Radio has a selective policy regarding its broadcast content, rather than duplicating the television network programming, although it does offer some audio simulcasts of programs such as Washington Journal. Unique programming on the radio station includes oral histories, and some committee meetings and press conferences not shown on television due to programming commitments. The station also compiles the Sunday morning talk shows for a same-day rebroadcast without commercials, in rapid succession.

Online availability

C-SPAN archival video is available through the C-SPAN Video Library, maintained at the Purdue Research Park in West Lafayette, Indiana. Unveiled in August 2007, the C-SPAN Video Library contains all of the network's programming since 1987, totaling more than 160,000 hours at its completion of digitization and public debut in March 2010. Older C-SPAN programming continues to be added to the library, dating back to the beginning of the network in 1979, and some limited earlier footage from the National Archives, such as film clips of Richard Nixon's 1972 trip to China, is available as well. Most of the recordings before 1987 (when the C-SPAN Archive was established) were not saved, except for approximately 10,000 hours of video which are slated to be made available online. As of November 2021, the C-SPAN Video Library held over 271,000 hours of programming, and they have been viewed over 253 million times. Described by media commentators as a major educational service and a valuable resource for researchers of politics and history, the C-SPAN Video Library has also had a major role in media and opposition research in several U.S. political campaigns. It won a Peabody Award in 2010 "for creating an enduring archive of the history of American policymaking, and for providing it as a free, user-friendly public service."

Prior to the initiation of the C-SPAN Video Library, websites such as Metavid and voterwatch.org hosted House and Senate video records, however C-SPAN contested Metavid's usage of C-SPAN copyrighted footage. The result was Metavid's removal of portions of the archive produced with C-SPAN's cameras, while preserving its archive of government-produced content. C-SPAN also engaged in actions to stop parties from making unauthorized uses of its content online, including its video of House and Senate proceedings. Most notably, in May 2006, C-SPAN requested the removal of Stephen Colbert's performance at the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner from YouTube. After concerns by some webloggers, C-SPAN gave permission for Google Video to host the full event. On March 7, 2007, C-SPAN liberalized its copyright policy for current, future, and past coverage of any official events sponsored by Congress and any federal agency and now allows for attributed non-commercial copying, sharing, and posting of C-SPAN video on the Internet, excluding re-syndication of live video streams. The new policy did not affect the public's right to use the public domain video coverage of the floor proceedings of the U.S. House and Senate.

In 2008, C-SPAN's online political coverage was expanded just prior to the elections, with the introduction of three special pages on the C-SPAN website: the C-SPAN Convention Hubs and C-SPAN Debate Hub, which offered video of major events as well as discussion from weblogs and social media about the major party conventions and candidate debates. C-SPAN brought back the Convention Hub for the 2012 presidential election.

In addition to the programming available in the C-SPAN Video Library, all C-SPAN programming is available as a live feed streamed on its website in Flash Video format.

On July 29, 2014, C-SPAN announced that it would begin restricting access to the live feeds of the main channel, C-SPAN2 and C-SPAN3 to subscribers of cable or satellite providers later that summer, citing concerns with the slow shift in viewing habits from cable television to the internet due to its reliance on carriage fees from cable and satellite providers. However, it will continue to allow all government meetings, hearings and conferences to be streamed live online and via archived on the C-SPAN Video Library without requiring an authenticated login by a provider; live audio feeds of all three channels are also available for free through the network's mobile app. The decision drew some criticism from public interest and government transparency advocates, citing the fact that C-SPAN was designed as a public service. As of December 2019, C-SPAN has begun advertising on its online videos, with YouTube-style advertisements that can be skipped after 5 seconds.

Organization and operations

C-SPAN is operated by the National Cable Satellite Corporation, a nonprofit organization. Early chairmen included Bob Rosencrans, John Saeman, Ed Allen and Gene Schneider.

As a non-commercial public service, C-SPAN receives most of its funding from subscriber fees charged to cable and direct-broadcast satellite (DBS) operators. As of 2012, C-SPAN received 6˘ of each subscriber's cable bill for an annual budget of $60 million. C-SPAN began airing internet commercials early in 2021 and now sells C-SPAN merchandise.

As the network is an independent entity, neither the cable industry nor Congress controls the content of its programming.

As of January 2013, the network has 282 or 337 employees. C-SPAN is led by co-CEOs Rob Kennedy and Susan Swain. Founder and former CEO Brian Lamb serves as the executive chairman of the board of directors. The majority of C-SPAN's employees are based at C-SPAN's headquarters located on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.. In 2003 television studios were opened in New York City and Denver, Colorado. These studios use digital equipment that can be controlled from Washington.

C-SPAN also maintains archives in West Lafayette, Indiana, at the Purdue Research Park under the direction of Dr. Robert X. Browning.


The C-SPAN networks are available in more than 100 million households as of 2010, not including access to the C-SPAN websites. More than 7,000 telephone callers have participated with discussion on Washington Journal as of March 18, 2009. There are no official viewing statistics for C-SPAN because the network, which has no commercials or underwriting advertisements, does not use the Nielsen ratings. However, there have been a number of surveys providing estimates:
Public and media opinion

A 2009 C-SPAN survey of viewers found that the network's most-valued attribute was its balanced programming. The survey's respondents were a mixed group, with 31% describing themselves as "liberal," while 28% described themselves as "conservative", and the survey found that C-SPAN viewers are an equal mixture of men and women of all age groups.

C-SPAN's public service nature has been praised as an enduring contribution to national knowledge. In 1987, Andrew Rosenthal wrote for The New York Times about C-SPAN's influence in political elections, arguing that C-SPAN's "blanket coverage" had expanded television journalism "into areas once shielded from general view". The network has received positive media coverage for providing public access to proceedings such as the Goldman Sachs Senate hearings, and the U.S. 2010 Healthcare Summit, while its everyday programming has been credited with providing the media and the general public with an intimate knowledge of U.S. political proceedings and people. The ability of C-SPAN to provide this service without federal funding, advertising or soliciting viewer contributions has been remarked by local newspapers and online news services, with the Daily Beast terming C-SPAN's $55 million annual budget (in 2009), "an astounding bargain." In an article on the 25th anniversary of the network, The Washington Post noted that C-SPAN's programming has been copied by television networks worldwide and credits the network with providing information about foreign politics to American viewers. According to The New York Times, C-SPAN's mission to record official events in Washington, D.C., makes it "one of a kind", particularly in the creation of the C-SPAN Video Library, which received significant press coverage.

Despite its stated commitment to providing politically balanced programming, C-SPAN and its shows such as Washington Journal, Booknotes, Q & A, and After Words have been accused by some liberal organizations of having a conservative bias. In 2005, the media criticism organization Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) released a study of C-SPAN's morning telephone call-in show Washington Journal. In their six-month sample of guests, they identified 32 as "right-of-center" and 19 as "left-of-center"; they also noted people of color are underrepresented at 15% of the guest list. A 2007 survey released by the think tank Center for Economic and Policy Research reported that C-SPAN covered conservative think tanks more than left-of-center think tanks.

Other services

C-SPAN offers a number of public services related to the network's public affairs programming. C-SPAN Classroom, a free membership service for teachers, began in July 1987 and offers help using C-SPAN resources for classes or research. The C-SPAN School Bus, introduced in November 1993, traveled around the U.S. educating the public about government and politics using C-SPAN resources, and served as a mobile television studio. The bus also recorded video footage of the places that it visited. A second bus was introduced in 1996. The two original buses were retired in 2010, and the C-SPAN Digital Bus was inaugurated, introducing the public to C-SPAN's enhanced digital products. C-SPAN has also equipped six Local Content Vehicles (LCVs) to travel the country and record unique political and historical stories, with each vehicle containing production and web-based technologies to produce on-the-spot content.

C-SPAN has published ten books based on its programming; these contain original material and text taken from interview transcripts. The first C-SPAN book, C-SPAN: America's Town Hall, was published in 1988. Other C-SPAN books include: Gavel to Gavel: A C-SPAN Guide to Congress; Who's Buried in Grant's Tomb?, a guide to the grave sites of U.S. presidents; Abraham Lincoln - Great American Historians On Our Sixteenth President, a collection of essays based on C-SPAN interviews with American historians; and The Supreme Court, which features biographies and interviews with past Supreme Court judges together with commentary from legal experts. Five books have been drawn from the former Booknotes program: Booknotes: Life Stories; Booknotes: On American Character; Booknotes: Stories from American History; Booknotes: America's Finest Authors on Reading, Writing and the Power of Ideas, the latter a compilation of short monologues taken from the transcripts of Lamb's interviews; and a companion book to the series on Tocqueville, Traveling Tocqueville's America: A Tour Book.


See also

Search Wikipedia

Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License 3.0.
These pages best viewed with Netscape Navigator 1.1 or later.
Privacy policy and personal data management.

[W3 Validator] [Netscape Now] [FREE Internet Explorer]