Wednesday’s dramatic protest on the House floor over gun control was a powerful reminder of how dramatically C-SPAN’s role as the official chronicler of Congress has changed since its early years — and how technology has suddenly made C-SPAN less beholden to the congressional leaders who control its video feed inside the chambers, reports POLITICO.

The POLITICO report, in part, added:

“It all unfolded quickly: When the sit-in began Wednesday morning, Republican leaders ordered the House into recess. And since only they, and not C-SPAN, oversee the camera, C-SPAN’s feed was cut off, as dictated by the chamber’s rules.

“Normally, that would have been end of story.

“But in a move that would not have been possible even five years ago, C-SPAN picked up a live video feed from a lawmaker recording the sit-in from inside the chamber — doing an end-run around House leaders.

“The video feed — and the power to control it — was once a real lever of power in Congress. As a newcomer to the House in 1979 looking to make a name for himself, Newt Gingrich used C-SPAN, which had just launched months earlier, to full effect, regularly blasting Democrats before the budding audience of cable subscribers. Five years later, after Gingrich accused Democrats of being “blind to communism,” House Speaker Tip O’Neill used C-SPAN to exact revenge, ordering the House cameras to pan across an empty chamber as one Republican lawmaker was making a speech.

Congress’ tight control over what its viewers see has long been a source of frustration for C-SPAN, which has been trying to get its own cameras on the floor of since 1984. But congressional leaders, whether Democratic or Republican, have maintained power over the cameras, the audio, the angles and when they’re turned on and off.

“That all changed on Wednesday afternoon, when members of Congress themselves became the cameras, using their smartphones to broadcast the sit-in live directly to C-SPAN after the network’s access to video feeds from the House floor was cut, despite the fact there were dozens of Democratic lawmakers still there, making speeches and making news.”

 

““This is a milestone moment,” said C-SPAN spokesman Howard Mortman, who said he was inundated with calls and interest on Wednesday.”

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