Tuesday, January 5, 2010

C-SPAN trying for camera access on healthcare

Remember when candidate Barack Obama promised in 2008 that the healthcare reform debate would be held in full view of the "C-SPAN cameras" as part of his pledge of a new transparency in government?

It hasn't exactly happened that way, has it? And now, with Democratic leadership in the Senate and House promising to take the process of reconciling the the two bills into even deeper darkness, C-SPAN has released a letter from CEO Brian Lamb showing that it isn't cable TV's fault that Americans are being kept from bearing witness to the creation of one of the most sweeping pieces of legislation in four decades.

Here's a letter Lamb sent to Democratic leadership promising any and all C-SPAN resources to telecast negotiations on the final healthcare bill. Read it and understand who is cutting the American public out of this process. I have been writing for months about the outstanding job C-SPAN has been doing in trying to take viewers behind the closed doors of this process -- despite the efforts of Democratic leadership to keep the cameras at bay.

Here's the letter dated Dec. 30, 2009. After reading it, please let me know how it makes you feel.

The Honorable Nancy Pelosi The Honorable Harry Reid

Speaker Majority Leader

United States House or Representatives United States Senate

The Honorable John Boehner The Honorable Mitch McConnell

Minority Leader Minority Leader

United States House of Representatives United States Senate

Dear Speaker Pelosi:

Representative Boehner:

Senator Reid:

Senator McConnell:

As your respective chambers work to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate health care bills, C-SPAN requests that you open all important negotiations, including any conference committee meetings, to electronic media coverage.

The C-SPAN networks will commit the necessary resources to covering all of these sessions LIVE and in their entirety. We will also, as we willingly do each day, provide C-SPAN’s multi-camera coverage to any interested member of the Capitol Hill broadcast pool.

Since the initial introduction of the America’s Affordable Health Care Act of 2009 in the House and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in the Senate

C-SPAN has televised literally hundreds of hours of committee hearings, mark ups and floor debate on these bills for the public to see. And importantly, we have archived all of this video for future generations to study in the C-SPAN Video Archives.

President Obama, Senate and House leaders, many of your rank-and-file members, and the nation’s editorial pages have all talked about the value of transparent discussions on reforming the nation’s health care system. Now that the process moves to the critical stage of reconciliation between the Chambers, we respectfully request that you allow the public full access, through television, to legislation that will affect the lives of every single American.

We hope you will give serious consideration to this request. We are most willing to employ the latest digital technology to make the cameras, lights and microphones as unobtrusive as possible.

Please contact me if I can answer any questions.


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