Happy Birthday C-SPAN! You Are Now Old Enough to Run for President!
C-Span celebrates 35 years this year. C-Span first broadcast on March 19, 1979 and the first U.S. Representative to speak on the House floor was then-congressman Al Gore. It wasn’t until 1986 that the U.S. Senate was also broadcast (otherwise Chuck “never met a TV camera he didn’t like” Schumer might never have become a Senator.)
C-Span has 97 million potential viewers and at least 39 million of them watch at least once or twice a week. The viewing audience is split evenly between male and female and is a politically active bunch, with over 80 percent saying they voted in the last election. My favorite statistic, (and PBS please take note) is that C-Span has taken no federal taxpayer dollars to bring the invaluable service into your home.
Members of Congress should take heed of the viewing numbers. The fact that at any given time you could be addressing millions of people on C-Span has been used successfully by both parties. If there is one thing being in the Minority teaches it is that parliamentary procedure can be successfully utilized to further your goals. Former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga) learned that prior to the Republicans gaining control of Congress in 1994 and current Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) knew that before the Democrats took back control ten years later. These leaders would instruct their Members to give both one-minute speeches (speeches given at the start of the legislative day) and special order speeches (given at the end of the day, normally lasting an hour) on subjects that show THEIR party is the party that should be in control. While doing little to immediately get passage of legislation these speeches contribute greatly to the debate on the issues and introduce these ideas to millions of people.
Special orders are a great way to motivate the base as well – they have been used to highlight the atrocities of abortionist Kermit Gosnell, the importance of conscience rights, the problem of abortion funding in Obamacare as well as a host of other pro-life issues.
I’ve appeared on C-SPAN’s National Journal morning show a few times and have always loved it, especially the phone calls. On October 7, 1980, just 18 months into its history, C-SPAN inaugurated television’s first-ever, regularly scheduled national viewer call-in program from the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., following a speech by then- FCC Chair Charles Ferris. C-SPAN’s first caller was from Yankton, South Dakota. See the video of that first phone call here.