|Headquarters||Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C.|
|Picture format||1080i (HDTV)|
(downscaled to letterboxed 480i for SDTV feeds)
|Owner||National Cable Satellite Corporation|
|Launched||March 19, 1979|
June 2, 1986
January 22, 2001
|90.1 FM / HD Radio (Washington, D.C. / Baltimore)|
|Selective TV, Inc.|
|Available to current cable/satellite subscribers||C-SPAN Live|
and on demand
Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network (C-SPAN; //) is an American cable and satellite television network that was created in 1979 by the cable television industry as a nonprofit public service. It televises many proceedings of the United States federal government, as well as other public affairs programming. The C-SPAN network includes the television channels C-SPAN (focusing on the U.S. House of Representatives), C-SPAN2 (focusing on the U.S. Senate), and C-SPAN3 (airing other government hearings and related programming), the radio station WCSP-FM, and a group of websites which provide streaming media and archives of C-SPAN programs. C-SPAN's television channels are available to approximately 100 million cable and satellite households within the United States, while WCSP-FM is broadcast on FM radio in Washington, D.C., and is available throughout the U.S. on SiriusXM, via Internet streaming, and globally through apps for iOS and Android devices.
The network televises U.S. political events, particularly live and "gavel-to-gavel" coverage of the U.S. Congress. C-SPAN also televises occasional proceedings of the Australian, British (including the weekly Prime Minister's Questions), and Canadian parliaments, as well as other major events worldwide. Its coverage of political and policy events is unmoderated, providing the audience with unfiltered information about politics and government. Non-political coverage includes historical programming, programs dedicated to non-fiction books, and interview programs with noteworthy individuals associated with public policy. C-SPAN is a private, nonprofit organization funded by its cable and satellite affiliates, and it does not have advertisements on any of its networks, radio stations, or websites, nor does it solicit donations or pledges. The network operates independently, as the cable industry and the U.S. Congress do not have control of its programming content.
Brian Lamb, C-SPAN's chairman and former chief executive officer, conceived C-SPAN in 1975 while working as the Washington, D.C., bureau chief of the cable industry trade magazine Cablevision. It was a time of rapid growth in the number of cable television channels available in the United States. Lamb envisioned a cable-industry financed nonprofit network for televising sessions of the U.S. Congress, other public affairs events, and policy discussions. Lamb shared his idea with several cable executives, who helped him launch the network. Among them were Bob Rosencrans, who provided $25,000 of initial funding in 1979, and John D. Evans, who provided the wiring and access to the headend needed for the distribution of the C-SPAN signal. According to a report from commentator Jeff Greenfield on Nightline in 1980, C-SPAN was launched to provide televised coverage of U.S. political events in their entirety. The purpose was to help viewers maintain a thorough view of politics and especially presidential campaigns. This was unlike television newscasts, which "[do] not really inform us about what the candidates mean to do with the power they ask of us."
C-SPAN was launched on March 19, 1979, in time for the first televised session made available by the House of Representatives, beginning with a speech by then-Tennessee representative Al Gore. Upon its debut, only 3.5 million homes were wired for C-SPAN, and the network had just three employees. For the first few years of its existence C-SPAN leased satellite time from the USA Network (originally known as Madison Square Garden Sports Network) and had approximately 9 hours of daily programming. On February 1, 1982, C-SPAN launched its own transponder and expanded its schedule to 16 hours a day. The arrangement with the USA Network was discontinued two months later. C-SPAN began full-time operations on September 13, 1982. After C-SPAN was created and began broadcasting proceedings of the House of Representatives, the Senate wanted the same. After two years of discussion, Majority Leader Howard Baker introduced a resolution to allow cameras into the Senate, but it went nowhere. By 1986, Senator William L. Armstrong convinced his colleagues to allow cameras onto the Senate floor.
The second C-SPAN channel, C-SPAN2, followed on June 2, 1986, when the U.S. Senate permitted itself to be televised. It began full-time operations on January 5, 1987. C-SPAN3, the most recent expansion channel, began full-time operations on January 22, 2001, and shows live/taped public policy and government-related events on weekdays, with historical programming being shown on weeknights and weekends. It has also sometimes served as an overflow channel for live programming conflicts on C-SPAN and C-SPAN2. C-SPAN3 is the successor of a digital channel called C-SPAN Extra, which was launched in the Washington D.C. area in 1997, and televised live and recorded political events from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Eastern Time Monday through Friday.
C-SPAN Radio began operations on October 9, 1997, covering similar events as the television networks and often simulcasting their programming. The station broadcasts on WCSP-FM (90.1 MHz) in Washington, D.C., is also available on XM Satellite Radio channel 120 and is streamed live at c-span.org. It was formerly available on Sirius Satellite Radio from 2002 to 2006.
On January 12, 2017, the online feed for C-SPAN1 was interrupted and replaced by a feed from the Russian television network RT America for approximately 10 minutes. C-SPAN announced that they were troubleshooting the incident and were "operating under the assumption that it was an internal routing issue."
|Remarks by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy on the House floor on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of C-SPAN, March 26, 2019|
C-SPAN celebrated its 10th anniversary in 1989 with a three-hour retrospective, featuring Lamb recalling the development of the network. The 15th anniversary was commemorated in an unconventional manner as the network facilitated a series of re-enactments of the seven historic Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858, which were televised from August to October 1994, and have been rebroadcast from time to time ever since. Five years later, the series American Presidents: Life Portraits, which won a Peabody Award, served as a year-long observation of C-SPAN's 20th anniversary.
In 2004, C-SPAN celebrated its 25th anniversary, by which time the flagship network was viewed in 86 million homes, C-SPAN2 was in 70 million homes and C-SPAN3 was in eight million homes. On the anniversary date, C-SPAN repeated the first televised hour of floor debate in the House of Representatives from 1979 and, throughout the month, 25th anniversary features included "then and now" segments with journalists who had appeared on C-SPAN during its early years. Also included in the 25th anniversary was an essay contest for viewers to write in about how C-SPAN had influenced their life regarding community service. For example, one essay contest winner wrote about how C-SPAN's non-fiction book programming serves as a resource in his charitable mission to record non-fiction audio books for people who are blind.
To commemorate 25 years of taking viewer telephone calls, in 2005, C-SPAN had a 25-hour "call-in marathon", from 8:00 pm. Eastern Time on Friday, October 7, concluding at 9:00 pm. Eastern Time on Saturday, October 8. The network also had a viewer essay contest, the winner of which was invited to co-host an hour of the broadcast from C-SPAN's Capitol Hill studios.
Scope and limitations of coverage
C-SPAN continues to expand its coverage of government proceedings, with a history of requests to government officials for greater access, especially to the U.S. Supreme Court. In December 2009, Lamb wrote to leaders in the House and Senate, requesting that negotiations for health care reform be televised by C-SPAN. Committee meetings on health care were subsequently broadcast by C-SPAN and may be viewed on the C-SPAN website. In November 2010, Lamb wrote to incoming House Speaker John Boehner requesting changes to restrictions on cameras in the House. In particular, C-SPAN asked to add some of its own robotically operated cameras to the existing government-controlled cameras in the House chamber. In February 2011, Boehner denied the request. A previous request to Speaker Designate Nancy Pelosi in 2006, to add C-SPAN's cameras in the House chamber to record floor proceedings, was also denied. Although C-SPAN uses the congressional chamber feed cables, the cameras are owned and controlled by each respective body of Congress. Requests by C-SPAN for camera access to non-government events such as the annual dinner by the Gridiron Club have also been denied.
On June 22 and into June 23, 2016, C-SPAN took video footage of the House floor from individual House representatives via streaming services Periscope and Facebook Live during a sit-in by House Democrats asking for a vote on gun control measures after the Orlando nightclub shooting. This needed to be done because—as the sit-in was done out of formal session and while the House was in official recess—the existing House cameras could not be utilized for coverage of the event by rule.  Although the use of electronic devices to create the Periscope feeds by House Democrats violated House rules that prohibit their use on the floor, C-SPAN did not state why it chose to broadcast those feeds. The network ran disclaimers on-air and on their official social media feeds noting the restrictions.
Expansion and technology
Since the late 1990s, C-SPAN has significantly expanded its online presence. In January 1997, C-SPAN began real-time streaming of C-SPAN and C-SPAN2 on its website, the first time that Congress had been live streamed online. To cover the Democratic and Republican conventions and the presidential debates of 2008, C-SPAN created two standalone websites: the Convention Hub and the Debate Hub. In addition to real-time streams of C-SPAN's television networks online, c-span.org features further live programming such as committee hearings and speeches that are broadcast later in the day, after the House and Senate have left.
C-SPAN began promoting audience interaction early in its history, by the regular incorporation of viewer telephone calls in its programming. It has since expanded into social media. In March 2009, viewers began submitting questions live via Twitter to guests on C-SPAN's morning call-in show Washington Journal. The network also has a Facebook page to which it added occasional live streaming in January 2011. The live stream is intended to show selected well-publicized events of Congress. In June 2010, C-SPAN joined with the website Foursquare to provide users of the application with access to geotagged C-SPAN content at various locations in Washington, D.C.
In 2010, C-SPAN began a transition to high definition telecasts, planned to take place over an 18-month period. The network provided C-SPAN and C-SPAN2 in high definition on June 1, 2010, and C-SPAN3 in July 2010.
As part of the network's 40th anniversary, C-SPAN instituted the second logo change in the network's history on March 18, 2019.
Senate and House of Representatives
The C-SPAN network's core programming is live coverage of the U.S. House and Senate, with the C-SPAN channel emphasizing the United States House of Representatives. Between 1979 and May 2011, the network televised more than 24,246 hours of floor action. C-SPAN2, the first of the C-SPAN spin-off networks, provides uninterrupted live coverage of the United States Senate. With coverage of the House and Senate, viewers can track legislation as it moves through both bodies of Congress. Important debates in Congress that C-SPAN has covered live include the Persian Gulf conflict during 1991, and the House impeachment vote and Senate trial of President Bill Clinton in 1998 and 1999 as well as the impeachment proceedings of President Trump in 2019 and 2020. When the House or Senate are not in session, C-SPAN channels broadcast other public affairs programming and recordings of previous events.
The public affairs coverage on the C-SPAN networks other than the House and Senate floor debates is wide-ranging. C-SPAN is considered a useful source of information for journalists, lobbyists, educators and government officials as well as casual viewers interested in politics, due to its unedited coverage of political events. C-SPAN has been described by media observers as a "window into the world of Washington politics" and it characterizes its own mission as being "to provide public access to the political process". The networks cover U.S. political campaigns, including the Republican, Democratic, and Libertarian presidential nominating conventions in their entirety. Coverage of presidential campaign events are provided during the duration of the campaign, both by a weekly television program, Road to the White House, and at its dedicated politics website. C-SPAN also covers midterm elections.
All three channels televise events such as congressional hearings, White House press briefings and presidential speeches, as well as other government meetings including Federal Communications Commission hearings and Pentagon press conferences. Other U.S. political coverage includes State of the Union speeches, and presidential press conferences. According to the results of a survey after the 1992 presidential election, 85% of C-SPAN viewers voted in that election. The results of a similar survey in 2013 found that 89% of C-SPAN viewers voted in the 2012 presidential election. In addition to this political coverage, the network broadcasts press conferences and meetings of various news media and nonprofit organizations, including those at the National Press Club, public policy seminars and the White House Correspondents' Dinner. While C-SPAN does not have video access to the Supreme Court, the network has used the Court's audio recordings accompanied by still photographs of the justices and lawyers to cover the Court in session on significant cases, and has covered individual Supreme Court justices' speaking engagements.
Occasionally, proceedings of the Parliament of Australia, Parliament of Canada, Parliament of the United Kingdom (usually Prime Minister's Questions and the State Opening of Parliament) and other governments are shown on C-SPAN when they discuss matters of importance to viewers in the U.S. Similarly, the networks will sometimes broadcast news reports from around the world when major events occur – for instance, C-SPAN broadcast CBC Television coverage of the September 11 attacks. C-SPAN also covers lying in state in the Capitol Rotunda and funerals of former presidents and other notable individuals. In 2005, C-SPAN covered Hurricane Katrina through NBC affiliate WDSU in New Orleans, as well as coverage of Hurricane Ike via CBS affiliate KHOU in Houston. C-SPAN also carries CBC coverage during events that affect Canadians, such as the Canadian federal elections, the death and state funeral of Pierre Trudeau, and the 2003 North America blackout. During early 2011, C-SPAN carried broadcasts by Al Jazeera to cover the events in Egypt, Tunisia, and other Arab nations. Additionally, C-SPAN simulcasts NASA Space Shuttle mission launches and landings live, using video footage and audio sourced from NASA TV.
With its public affairs programming, C-SPAN intends to offer different viewpoints by allowing time for multiple opinions to be discussed on a given topic. For example, in 2004 C-SPAN intended to televise a speech by Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt adjacent to a speech by Holocaust denier David Irving, who had unsuccessfully sued Lipstadt for libel in the United Kingdom four years earlier; C-SPAN was criticized for its use of the word "balance" to describe the plan to cover both Lipstadt and Irving. When Lipstadt ended media access to her speech, C-SPAN canceled coverage of both.
The network strives for neutrality and a lack of bias; in all programming when on-camera hosts are present their role is simply to facilitate and explain proceedings to the viewer. Due to this policy, C-SPAN hosts do not state their names on television.
C-SPAN and C-SPAN2 flagship programs
C-SPAN covers floor proceedings of the House of Representatives, while C-SPAN 2 covers floor proceedings of the Senate. Although many hours of programming on C-SPAN are dedicated to coverage of the House, the network's daily programming begins with the political phone-in and interview program Washington Journal from 7:00 to 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time. Washington Journal premiered on January 4, 1995, and has been broadcast every morning since then, with guests including elected officials, government administrators, and journalists. The program covers current events, with guests answering questions on topics presented by the hosts, as well as questions from members of the general public. On weeknights C-SPAN2 dedicates its schedule to Politics and Public Policy Today (9:00 p.m. – midnight for the East Coast primetime, replayed immediately for the West Coast primetime), which is a block of recordings of the day's noteworthy events in rapid succession. On the weekend schedule, C-SPAN's main program is Q&A, a Sunday evening interview program hosted by Susan Swain, with guests including journalists, politicians, authors, and other public figures.
On weekends, C-SPAN2 dedicates its schedule to Book TV, which is 48 hours of programming about non-fiction books, book events, and authors. Book TV was launched in September 1998. Booknotes was originally broadcast from 1989 to 2004, as a one-hour one-on-one interview of a non-fiction author. Repeats of the interviews remain a regular part of the Book TV schedule with the title Encore Booknotes. Other Book TV programs feature political and historical books and biographies of public figures. These include In Depth, a live, monthly, three-hour interview with a single author, and After Words, an author interview program featuring guest hosts interviewing authors on topics with which both are familiar. After Words was developed as a new type of author interview program after the end of production of Booknotes. Weekend programming on Book TV also includes coverage of book events such as panel discussions, book fairs, book signings, readings by authors and tours of bookstores around the U.S.
C-SPAN 3 covers public affairs events, congressional hearings and history programming. The weekday programming on C-SPAN3 (from the morning — anywhere from 6 to 8:30 a.m. — to 8 p.m. Eastern Time) features uninterrupted live public affairs events, in particular political events from Washington, D.C. Each weekend since January 8, 2011, the network has broadcast 48 hours of programming dedicated to the history of the United States, under the umbrella title American History TV. The programming covers the history of the U.S. from the founding of the nation through the late 20th century. Programs include American Artifacts, which is dedicated to exploring museums, archives and historical sites, and Lectures in History, featuring major university history professors giving lectures on U.S. history. In 2009, C-SPAN3 aired an eight-installment series of interviews from the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas, which featured historian Richard Norton Smith and Vice President Walter Mondale, among other interviewees.
C-SPAN has occasionally produced spinoff programs from Booknotes focusing on specific topics. In 1994, Booknotes collaborated with Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer to produce re-creations of the seven Lincoln–Douglas debates. Several years later, a similar series retraced the journey of Alexis de Tocqueville described in Democracy in America. Another special series was American Writers, a 38-week tour of the U.S. based on the works of 40 famous American writers.
During 2008 and 2009, as part of programming specially commissioned for the 200th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln, C-SPAN produced a series titled Lincoln 200 Years, which featured episodes on a variety of topics relating to the life of Lincoln including his career, his homes and his opinions of slavery.
The network has also produced special feature documentaries of American institutions and historical landmarks, exploring their history to the present day. These programs include: The Capitol emphasizing the history, art, and architecture of the U.S. Capitol Building; The White House, featuring film footage inside the White House and exploring the history of the building and its occupants; The Supreme Court, focusing on the history and personalities of the court; and Inside Blair House, an examination of the president's guest house.
In 2013, C-SPAN introduced a new program, First Ladies: Influence & Image. 35 episodes profiling the First Ladies are planned for the series, which was created with support from the White House Historical Association.
In addition to the three television networks, C-SPAN also broadcasts via C-SPAN Radio, which is carried on their owned-and-operated station WCSP-FM (90.1 FM) in the Washington, D.C. area with all three cable network feeds airing via HD Radio subchannels, and nationwide on XM Satellite Radio. Its programming is also livestreamed at c-span.org and is available via apps for iPhone, BlackBerry and Android devices. C-SPAN Radio has a selective policy regarding its broadcast content, rather than duplicating the television network programming, although it does offer some audio simulcasts of programs such as Washington Journal. Unique programming on the radio station includes oral histories, and some committee meetings and press conferences not shown on television due to programming commitments. The station also compiles the Sunday morning talk shows for a same-day rebroadcast without commercials, in rapid succession.
C-SPAN archival video is available through the C-SPAN Video Library, maintained at the Purdue Research Park in West Lafayette, Indiana. Unveiled in August 2007, the C-SPAN Video Library contains all of the network's programming since 1987, totaling more than 160,000 hours at its completion of digitization and public debut in March 2010. Older C-SPAN programming continues to be added to the library, dating back to the beginning of the network in 1979, and some limited earlier footage from the National Archives, such as film clips of Richard Nixon's 1972 trip to China, is available as well. Most of the recordings before 1987 (when the C-SPAN Archive was established) were not saved, except for approximately 10,000 hours of video which are slated to be made available online. As of November 2021[update], the C-SPAN Video Library held over 271,000 hours of programming, and they have been viewed over 253 million times. Described by media commentators as a major educational service and a valuable resource for researchers of politics and history, the C-SPAN Video Library has also had a major role in media and opposition research in several U.S. political campaigns. It won a Peabody Award in 2010 "for creating an enduring archive of the history of American policymaking, and for providing it as a free, user-friendly public service."
Prior to the initiation of the C-SPAN Video Library, websites such as Metavid and voterwatch.org hosted House and Senate video records, however C-SPAN contested Metavid's usage of C-SPAN copyrighted footage. The result was Metavid's removal of portions of the archive produced with C-SPAN's cameras, while preserving its archive of government-produced content. C-SPAN also engaged in actions to stop parties from making unauthorized uses of its content online, including its video of House and Senate proceedings. Most notably, in May 2006, C-SPAN requested the removal of Stephen Colbert's performance at the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner from YouTube. After concerns by some webloggers, C-SPAN gave permission for Google Video to host the full event. On March 7, 2007, C-SPAN liberalized its copyright policy for current, future, and past coverage of any official events sponsored by Congress and any federal agency and now allows for attributed non-commercial copying, sharing, and posting of C-SPAN video on the Internet, excluding re-syndication of live video streams. The new policy did not affect the public's right to use the public domain video coverage of the floor proceedings of the U.S. House and Senate.
In 2008, C-SPAN's online political coverage was expanded just prior to the elections, with the introduction of three special pages on the C-SPAN website: the C-SPAN Convention Hubs and C-SPAN Debate Hub, which offered video of major events as well as discussion from weblogs and social media about the major party conventions and candidate debates. C-SPAN brought back the Convention Hub for the 2012 presidential election.
On July 29, 2014, C-SPAN announced that it would begin restricting access to the live feeds of the main channel, C-SPAN2 and C-SPAN3 to subscribers of cable or satellite providers later that summer, citing concerns with the slow shift in viewing habits from cable television to the internet due to its reliance on carriage fees from cable and satellite providers. However, it will continue to allow all government meetings, hearings and conferences to be streamed live online and via archived on the C-SPAN Video Library without requiring an authenticated login by a provider; live audio feeds of all three channels are also available for free through the network's mobile app. The decision drew some criticism from public interest and government transparency advocates, citing the fact that C-SPAN was designed as a public service. As of December 2019, C-SPAN has begun advertising on its online videos, with YouTube-style advertisements that can be skipped after 5 seconds.
Organization and operations
|Founded||November 14, 1978|
|Legal status||501(c)(3) nonprofit organization|
|Affiliations||C-SPAN Education Foundation|
|282 or 337|
C-SPAN is operated by the National Cable Satellite Corporation, a nonprofit organization, the board of directors of which consists primarily of representatives of the largest cable companies. Early chairmen of C-SPAN include Bob Rosencrans, John Saeman, Ed Allen and Gene Schneider. C-SPAN began airing internet commercials early in 2021 and offering C-SPAN-themed clothing though not soliciting donations on air; nonetheless, as a non-commercial public service, it receives most of its funding from subscriber fees charged to cable and direct-broadcast satellite (DBS) operators. As of 2012[update], C-SPAN received 6¢ of each subscriber's cable bill for an annual budget of $60 million. As the network is an independent entity, neither the cable industry nor Congress controls the content of its programming.
As of January 2013[update], the network has 282 or 337 employees. C-SPAN is led by co-CEOs Rob Kennedy and Susan Swain. Founder and former CEO Brian Lamb serves as the executive chairman of the board of directors. The majority of C-SPAN's employees are based at C-SPAN's headquarters located on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.; however, in 2003 television studios were opened in New York City and Denver, Colorado. These studios use digital equipment that can be controlled from Washington.
The C-SPAN networks are available in more than 100 million households as of 2010[update], not including access to the C-SPAN websites. More than 7,000 telephone callers have participated with discussion on Washington Journal as of March 18, 2009[update]. There are no official viewing statistics for C-SPAN because the network, which has no commercials or underwriting advertisements, does not use the Nielsen ratings. However, there have been a number of surveys providing estimates:
- A 1994 survey found that 8.6% of the U.S. population regularly watched C-SPAN.
- In 2004 this figure increased to 12% of the U.S. population, according to a Pew Research Center survey, while 31% of the population was categorized as occasional viewers. More than 28 million people said they watched C-SPAN programming each week.
- A March 2009 Hart Research survey found that 20% of homes with cable television watch C-SPAN at least once a week, for an estimated 39 million Americans.
- A 2010 poll conducted by C-SPAN and Penn Schoen Berland estimates that 79 million adults in the U.S. watched C-SPAN at some time from 2009 to 2010.
- In January 2013, Hart Research conducted another survey which showed that 47 million adults, or 24% of adults with access to cable television, watch C-SPAN weekly. Of the 47 million regular C-SPAN viewers, 51% are male and 49% female; 26% are liberal, 31% conservative, and 39% moderate. About half are college graduates. 28% of 18-to-49-year-olds report watching at least once a week, as do 19% of 50- to 64-year-olds, and 22% of those over age 65.
- In February 2017, Ipsos Audience conducted another survey which showed that 70 million adults, or 36% of adults with access to cable television, watch C-SPAN on a given six-month period. Of the 70 million regular C-SPAN viewers, 52% are male and 48% female; 25% are West viewers, 22% Midwest, 20% Northeast and 33% South. 28% identified themselves as liberal, 27% conservative, and 36% moderate. 51% of all viewers are 18–44 years old.
Public and media opinion
A 2009 C-SPAN survey of viewers found that the network's most-valued attribute was its balanced programming. The survey's respondents were a mixed group, with 31% describing themselves as "liberal," while 28% described themselves as "conservative", and the survey found that C-SPAN viewers are an equal mixture of men and women of all age groups.
C-SPAN's public service nature has been praised as an enduring contribution to national knowledge. In 1987, Andrew Rosenthal wrote for The New York Times about C-SPAN's influence in political elections, arguing that C-SPAN's "blanket coverage" had expanded television journalism "into areas once shielded from general view". The network has received positive media coverage for providing public access to proceedings such as the Goldman Sachs Senate hearings, and the U.S. 2010 Healthcare Summit, while its everyday programming has been credited with providing the media and the general public with an intimate knowledge of U.S. political proceedings and people. The ability of C-SPAN to provide this service without federal funding, advertising or soliciting viewer contributions has been remarked by local newspapers and online news services, with the Daily Beast terming C-SPAN's $55 million annual budget (in 2009), "an astounding bargain." In an article on the 25th anniversary of the network, The Washington Post noted that C-SPAN's programming has been copied by television networks worldwide and credits the network with providing information about foreign politics to American viewers. According to The New York Times, C-SPAN's mission to record official events in Washington, D.C. makes it "one of a kind", particularly in the creation of the C-SPAN Video Library, which received significant press coverage.
Despite its stated commitment to providing politically balanced programming, C-SPAN and its shows such as Washington Journal, Booknotes, Q & A, and After Words have been accused by some liberal organizations of having a conservative bias. In 2005, the media criticism organization Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) released a study of C-SPAN's morning telephone call-in show Washington Journal. In their six-month sample of guests, they identified 32 as "right-of-center" and 19 as "left-of-center"; they also noted people of color are underrepresented at 15% of the guest list. A 2007 survey released by the think tank Center for Economic and Policy Research reported that C-SPAN covered conservative think tanks more than left-of-center think tanks.
In 1992, Congress passed must-carry regulations, which required cable carriers to allocate spectrum to local broadcasters. This affected the availability of C-SPAN in some areas, in particular C-SPAN2, as some providers chose to discontinue carriage of the channel altogether. Between 1993 and 1994, cable systems in 95 U.S. cities dropped or reduced broadcasts of C-SPAN and C-SPAN2, following the implementation of the must-carry regulations. Viewers protested these decisions, especially when the changes coincided with matters of local interest occurring in the House or Senate. Some communities, such as Eugene, Oregon and Alexandria, Virginia, were successful in restoring C-SPAN availability. C-SPAN availability was later restored as technological developments that resulted in the expansion of channel capacity on cable providers allowed for mandatory stations and the C-SPAN networks both to be broadcast.
C-SPAN offers a number of public services related to the network's public affairs programming. C-SPAN Classroom, a free membership service for teachers, began in July 1987 and offers help using C-SPAN resources for classes or research. The C-SPAN School Bus, introduced in November 1993, traveled around the U.S. educating the public about government and politics using C-SPAN resources, and served as a mobile television studio. The bus also recorded video footage of the places that it visited. A second bus was introduced in 1996. The two original buses were retired in 2010, and the C-SPAN Digital Bus was inaugurated, introducing the public to C-SPAN's enhanced digital products. C-SPAN has also equipped six Local Content Vehicles (LCVs) to travel the country and record unique political and historical stories, with each vehicle containing production and web-based technologies to produce on-the-spot content.
C-SPAN has published ten books based on its programming; these contain original material and text taken from interview transcripts. The first C-SPAN book, C-SPAN: America's Town Hall, was published in 1988. Other C-SPAN books include: Gavel to Gavel: A C-SPAN Guide to Congress; Who's Buried in Grant's Tomb?, a guide to the grave sites of U.S. presidents; Abraham Lincoln - Great American Historians On Our Sixteenth President, a collection of essays based on C-SPAN interviews with American historians; and The Supreme Court, which features biographies and interviews with past Supreme Court judges together with commentary from legal experts. Five books have been drawn from the former Booknotes program: Booknotes: Life Stories; Booknotes: On American Character; Booknotes: Stories from American History; Booknotes: America's Finest Authors on Reading, Writing and the Power of Ideas, the latter a compilation of short monologues taken from the transcripts of Lamb's interviews; and a companion book to the series on Tocqueville, Traveling Tocqueville's America: A Tour Book.
- Educators' Guide: Teaching Critical Thinking in the Classroom (1995). Washington, DC: National Cable Satellite Corp. C-SPAN in the Classroom Series.
- Gavel to Gavel: A C-SPAN Guide to Congress (1999). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 978-0-8018-6111-6.
- Booth, David R. (2010). Peer Participation and Software: What Mozilla Has to Teach Government. MIT Press. p. 81. ISBN 978-0-262-51461-3.
- Barnhart, Aaron (May 3, 2003). "Win like a lamb; C-SPAN remains a reliable source thanks to founder's fair approach". Kansas City Star. p. F1. Retrieved May 22, 2013.
- "C-SPAN: The Other Washington Monument". tvnewscheck.com. News Check Media. April 20, 2010. Archived from the original on February 5, 2013. Retrieved November 30, 2010.
- Mixon, Franklin G. (2003). Legislative Television As Political Advertising: A Public Choice Approach. iUniverse. p. 2. ISBN 978-0-595-27086-6.
- "Original Cable Guy". college.columbia.edu. Columbia College. Archived from the original on August 29, 2008. Retrieved August 5, 2008.
- Paddock, Travis (April 8, 1998). "C-SPAN chief says network has 'extended the gallery'". The University Record. Ann Arbor, Michigan: The University of Michigan. Retrieved October 8, 2012.
- Frantzich, Stephen E.; John Sullivan (1996). The C-SPAN Revolution. University of Oklahoma Press. p. 30. ISBN 0-8061-2870-4.
- "Election Process Highlights | C-SPAN.org". c-span.org. Retrieved April 16, 2019.
- "Lamb opened government with C-SPAN". Journal & Courier. Lafayette, Indiana. November 3, 2007. p. 6A. Retrieved May 22, 2013.
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