When it comes to politics and cable, I don’t think anyone would disagree that C-SPAN is the jewel in the crown. I mean no disrespect to the fine work done by the various cable news networks, but C-SPAN started their coverage of this election (“Road to the White House 2008“) in December of 2004 and has shown somewhere around 5,000 hours of coverage so far.
C-SPAN has been advertised as “Cable’s Gift to America,” since it was created by cable companies as a public service in 1979 (contrary to the mistaken belief by some that C-SPAN is the Government Channel). Over the last three decades, “the political network of record” has now grown to three public affairs television networks, a radio station (also available on XM), and a website — all provided for through the support of the cable industry.
(Let’s recall that, in most instances, your local cable company pays a carriage fee to the programmer in order to bring you your favorite channel. Cable programmers have dual revenue streams — carriage fees & advertising — which is one of the reasons that a la carte would be harmful to them.)
C-SPAN, like other cable programmers, has been moving into the digital arena. As we enter the Academy Awards seasons of politics, with the Democratic Convention starting on Monday and the Republican Convention following the week after, C-SPAN has unveiled the Convention Hub.
- Real-time tracking of credentialed state and national political bloggers, aggregated on the websites, to enable users to follow the latest online convention news and analysis;
- Video clips from the network’s convention coverage, embeddable, to facilitate use by political bloggers and other convention watchers;
- Linkable access to the complete C-SPAN Video Library, allowing interested users to fully search all C-SPAN video content;
- Live coverage of C-SPAN television and radio networks;
- Blogger Tips and Online Convention Video Finder tools;
- Real-time feeds from Twitter users using the hash-tags #RNC08 and #DNC08
New Media Strategies (NMS), an Arlington-based online intelligence and marketing firm, was brought on to design proprietary software technology for Convention Hub. C-SPAN maintains editorial control.
All this is on top of C-SPAN’s usual excellent election coverage, which will begin each morning with Washington Journal at 7:00 AM (ET) and run through the closing of each day’s floor proceedings. In addition, C-SPAN 2 will bring you events like live coverage of the Republican Platform Meetings and Ron Paul’s Rally for the Republic.
C-SPAN has expanded its traditional television coverage with the technological approaches in order to attract new viewers. C-SPAN’s loosening of copyright restriction over the past few months (embeddable video is new for the conventions) is enabling bloggers to use C-SPAN content in creative ways and helps to expand C-SPAN’s core mission to educate and inform the American populace.
But it’s important to realize that all this coverage may be a gift, but it ain’t free. It costs money to run C-SPAN’s operations and the support of cable operators is a critical part of the network’s success. Despite some criticism (like this), it’s important to remember that C-SPAN is a business, not a government program. This NY Times story makes the case:
In May, C-Span said that it had for first time asserted its copyright against a video-clip site, ordering YouTube to take down copies of Stephen Colbert’s pointed speech in front of President Bush at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner. Clips of the speech had been viewed 2.7 million times on YouTube in the 48 hours before it was taken down.
“What I think a lot of people don’t understand — C-Span is a business, just like CNN is,” [C-SPAN Corporate Vice President & General Counsel Bruce] Collins said. “If we don’t have a revenue stream, we wouldn’t have six crews ready to cover Congressional hearings.”