C-SPAN, or Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network, was founded in 1979 by the cable television industry in the United States as a non-profit corporation. The purpose of C-SPAN is to provide the public with access to the political process. The mission statement of C-SPAN reads as follows:

C-SPAN is a public service created by the American cable television industry:

To provide C-SPAN's audience access to the live gavel-to-gavel proceedings of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, and to other forums where public policy is discussed, debated and decided--all without editing, commentary or analysis and with a balanced presentation of points of view;

To provide elected and appointed officials and others who would influence public policy a direct conduit to the audience without filtering or otherwise distorting their points of view;

To provide the audience, through the call-in program, direct access to elected officials, other decision makers and journalists on a frequent and open basis;

To employ production values that accurately convey the business of government rather than distract from it; and to conduct all other aspects of its operations consistent with these principles.

It's original purpose has expanded over the years and has included excellent programming on a wide variety of subjects, not all linked to the understanding of the political processes of the United States. These programs have included Booknotes, American Presidents and American Writers.

Broadcasting History

The milestones of C-SPAN's broadcasting history are many and a short list includes:

  • The first day of broadcasting began on March 19, 1979, when the United States House of Representatives allowed filming of it's proceedings.

  • October 7, 1980, C-SPAN began the first television program that allowed viewers to call in their questions directly to the politicans and policy makers being interviewed.

  • January 6, 1981, C-SPAN began live coverage of Congressional hearings.

  • September 14, 1982, C-SPAN went to a 24-hour format.

  • July 1, 1983, C-SPAN began occasional coverage of the Canadian House of Commons.

  • February 20, 1984, C-SPAN cablecast the Iowa caucus live and uninterrupted for the first time. During July and August of that year, they also covered the Democratic and Republican conventions live and uninterrupted for the first time.

  • June 2, 1986, C-SPAN2 began cablecasts from the United States Senate. On July 29, 1986, the United States Senate voted in favor of permanent coverage and on January 5, 1987, C-SPAN2 began 24-hour coverage of the US Senate.

  • November 9, 1988, C-SPAN begins transmitting to 90 countries via World Net, the first global satellite television network.

  • November 22, 1988, C-SPAN begins international coverage with Queen Elizabeth II's speech to the State opening of Parliament.

  • September 5, 1989, C-SPAN starts Audio Networks, featuring BBC World Service.

  • November 21, 1989, C-SPAN begins regular coverage of the British House of Commons. (One of my personal favorite programs)

  • August through October of 1994, C-SPAN broadcast re-enactments of the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates in seven Illinois towns.

  • May 18, 1996, C-SPAN2 began broadcasting About Books, a weekend program dedicated to books, authors and the publishing industry.

  • January 1997, C-SPAN starts offereing live video web coverage of the United States House of Representatives and Senate over the internet.

  • May 1997, C-SPAN began its Alexis de Tocqueville Tour, which ran for nine months, retracing the French authors tour of the United States.

  • September 15, 1997, C-SPAN Extra begins programming, covering public affairs events.

  • October 9, 1997, C-SPAN Radio 90 begins broadcasting 24-hours a day covering public affairs in the Washington, DC and Baltimore, Maryland region.

  • September 12, 1998, Book TV on C-SPAN2 begins broadcasting a 48-hour programming block on non-fiction books.

  • January 22, 2001, C-SPAN3 begins broadcasting as a national digital cable network, offering live coverage of national events on weekdays and long-form history programming at night and on weekends.

Awards Won

C-SPAN has won numerous awards from the televsion and news industry, including:

Many people find C-SPAN boring. I do not. I enjoy the rich mix of coverage of news, information and politics in the United States and from many parts of the world. C-SPAN has, in their 23 year history, in my opinion, contributed a great deal to the culture of the United States and the rest of the world in general. The style and format of the programming allows for thought, without outside input or talking heads to interfere. The programming assumes that the viewer has more than a modicum of intelligence and can follow and understand what is going on with out being told what to think or feel, which I find refreshing.



Usually, on the "Washington Journal" portion of C-SPAN, they disconnect calls that have little to do with the current topic, but the host sometimes gets a bit crazy and allows real maniacs to ramble on with anything from conspiracy theories to general insanity.

About two months ago, there was a caller who phoned in with a concern that "the Jews have control of the media". At first, it appeared that the host was going to cut him off, but this odd look of fascination came across his face, and he allowed the gentleman on the phone to continue. For three solid minutes, he babbled endlessly about the danger this control of the media posed, and just before he was cut off, he managed to say that "I think they have control of Congress, too". Needless to say, there was little comment on that call.

C-SPAN is cool because they actually tell both sides of the story. They'll air the Million Mom March and then the Republican Midwest Leadership Conference. But they don't show clips and then have pundits spin, they just show the event, verbatim. During the 2000 presidential election they aired 3rd party candidate debates. I just finished watching David Horowitz give a speech to a group of college conservatives. What other station would have the guts to air that?

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