from RealClearPolitics

The Gift of C-SPAN in an Era of Partisan Media

By Carl M. Cannon

Forty-five years ago today, future vice president Albert Gore Jr. stood in the well of the House of Representatives to discuss an innovative development in television programming. There was nothing remarkable about that in itself: Al Gore had been a newspaperman before becoming a Tennessee congressman and had a genuine interest in both new technology and mass communication.

Except that there was something momentous about Gore’s speech that day. It was the first time that remarks delivered on the House floor by a member of Congress were televised. It was an event long envisioned by a 38-year-old Indiana-born, Purdue-educated, U.S. Navy veteran who had worked as a White House and Capitol Hill aide before returning to journalism. His name was Brian Lamb. As the Washington bureau chief of the trade publication Cablevision, Lamb had dreamed of creating a nonprofit cable network that would focus exclusively on public affairs, particularly Congress. It was called C-SPAN, and on March 19, 1979, that dream became reality.

Addressing an audience that Lamb later quipped was “in the thousands,” Al Gore said this: “The marriage of this medium and of our open debate have the potential, Mr. Speaker, to revitalize representative democracy.”

Precisely four and a half decades later, C-SPAN is still shining a spotlight on our nation’s elected representatives and our shared national history, even as the technology changes under the network’s feet (yet again.)

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