During a week of bewilderment and confusion within the House over who will be the next Speaker, one thing offers clarity: the cameras.
Television cameras, which are usually strictly controlled by the House itself, are stationed by C-SPAN journalists who are allowed into the chamber to cover the votes for the time being. You can see lawmakers haggling, betraying, and gossiping. And there’s no question that journalists, not government employees, should be in control of the cameras year-round.
This would be a big change for Congress. “During the normal, day-to-day legislative process, you are never allowed to bring a camera into the chamber,” Ben O’Connell, his director of editorial operations at C-SPAN, told me. Instead, the House’s own television control room, the House Recording Studio, determines what is seen. Usually negligible. A close-up of the speakers on the floor and a wide shot of the chamber during voting. Angles that provide useful context, such as reaction shots of legislators, are prohibited.
Occasionally, the windows for public viewing are slightly cracked open. Independent access is granted for special occasions such as the State of the Union address and the election of the Speaker. But every time TV executives plead for more complete access, they’re turned down. It seems that Republican and Democratic leaders want the House to look as dated as possible.
That’s why this week was such a revelation. His three camera positions on C-SPAN capture House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy in deep conversations with Republican opponents, showing surprising interactions throughout the aisles. Republican Rep. Matt Gates has also flocked with the Democratic group. C-SPAN angles are shared with other broadcasters and streamers, so the House standoff has become like wallpaper in the wider media world.
Like any worthy TV drama, it had a multi-episode story arc thanks to the camera. New York’s George Santos, Republican congressman-elected Fabricator, sat alone on the first day of voting. Stand on, or at least close to, the second and third days.
Unless you’re a TV producer in need of a candid Congressional cutaway shot, this may seem seldom or seldom an issue. It was not considered worthy of television coverage. So when the proceedings were postponed due to the mob at the door, the cameras were quickly turned off. , would have made it more difficult for far-right media personalities to deny the reality of the day.
This discussion of transparency extends to the day-to-day activities of Congress. Now, “You can see who your legislators are talking to. you can see,” he said O’Connell. Some lawmakers are trying to avoid it.
We asked Brendan Bach, a counselor to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and press secretary to another Speaker of the House, John Boehner, why the standard for banning external cameras has persisted for decades. “Members have always resisted,” Buck replied in the seventh or eighth ballot. “They don’t want to see their every move, every conversation, every facial expression.” It’s one of the last places you can cross over and have a real conversation.”
That’s what the C-SPAN camera explained very well this week. Some members fear that things could fall apart even more if they have to be on high alert all the time and feel like people are watching.
But the desire to treat Maisons as private workspaces has given way to the highly public nature of work. should allow a pool of journalists’ cameras for discussion.
Former anchor of CNN’s Reliable Sources, Brian Stelter is a Fellow of the Shorenstein Center for Media, Politics and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School.