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Opinion: How government images of today’s House vote are carefully fed to American TV viewers

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THE HOUSE AS COVERED BY C-SPAN

THE HOUSE AS COVERED BY THE HOUSE
Those Ticket readers who memorize all of our items will recall this one from Nov. 18 at 8:16 a.m. We wrote about new House Speaker John Boehner’s efforts to dramatize how differently his Republicans would run the people’s house from the way it was operated by the previous crowd ousted in the Nov. 2 midterm elections.

The visionary founder of C-SPAN, Brian Lamb, took the occasion of those election upsets to plead with the Ohioan that finally after all these years C-SPAN’s independent TV cameras be allowed in for daily coverage of the proceedings.

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Few people realize that except for special days, like the opening of a new Congress (see top photo), all of the video feeds to the outside world come from government cameras operating under strict government rules (see bottom photo).

Apparently the bipartisan fear has been that independent cameras would focus on....

....whatever was happening or interesting, even if it was empty seats, two people whispering, a member picking his nose or scratching herself. So the official House TV rules strictly stipulate the cameras can only focus on the person talking, no wide shots putting the operations of democracy in a visual context. American voters and taxpayers, we suggested, could probably handle the burden of seeing the whole House for themselves without, in effect, political censorship of the video feed. What’s to be afraid of anyway?

Here’s the good news: Boehner hasn’t said No to C-SPAN.

Here’s the bad news: Boehner hasn’t said Yes to C-SPAN.

The folks over at the TV treasure house of C-SPAN are still waiting to hear from the new speaker. The earnest fellow has already cut his own chamber’s budget and eliminated a considerable amount of ceremonial foolishness like congratulatory resolutions.

Today, when Boehner’s controlling majority is expected to vote to repeal what it calls Obamacare, would be an excellent opportunity for the new GOP leader to say, ‘You know what? Let’s let the people who sent us here see what we’re doing. It’s not really as bad as they suspect.’

Over at C-SPAN, the Republican line is now open.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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