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C-SPAN seeks new rules of openness from new Republican House Speaker John Boehner

November 18, 2010 |  8:16 am

CSPAN House coverage Screengrab 11-18-10

As the Republicans plan their transition to majority party in the House of Representatives, about-to-be-Speaker John Boehner is seeking ways to dramatize the operational differences between the new GOP leadership and the old pirates of Pelosi.

No, no beanies for freshmen.

But one theme of Boehner's is institutional openness and accessibility in contrast to another political party -- we'll call them Democrats -- that said the public could only read legislation after it was passed by an obedient majority, many of whose members are now, strangely enough, filing for unemployment insurance back home.

Sensing an opportunity, the soft-spoken folks over at C-SPAN are requesting reforms in the way full House sessions are televised into more than 100 million homes.

C-SPAN, as everyone knows, is a 31-year-old living national treasure financed by cable companies whose letters stand for Comprehensive-Substantive Programming Ad Nauseum. No "Speaking Like the Stars" contests on C-SPAN's three channels. In modern....

...Washington, C-SPAN has become the de facto national sedative for sanity in a hectic verbal swamp seething with name-callers and screamers. Keith Olbermann wouldn't even be allowed to buy decaf in C-SPAN's cafeteria.

When Armageddon occurs, C-SPAN will televise the mushroom clouds while taking viewer reactions to the end of civilization on phone lines for Republicans, Democrats and Independents.Impeach Everybody button

Despite previous rejections by speakers, last week Brian Lamb, the head calm person, patiently wrote Boehner seeking permission to control its own cameras during full House sessions.

Currently, the cameras are House-owned and stationary on the person speaking. No reaction shots, no House panoramas, in part because the person speaking often has little audience but clerks.

The House, in fact, almost always looks like everyone's on break. 

To back up his request, Lamb also commissioned a poll of 1,200 actual midterm voters. You may not be terribly surprised -- and please do not audibly gasp if you are -- to learn that an overwhelming number of respondents, +/-2.83%, agree with Brian on this whole openness thing.

Some 84% support House members using good old plain English without all that whereas and heretofore folderol.

Some 83% have the ridiculous notion that proposed legislation always appear online for anyone to read at any time, like an ATM for laws.

About 80% would like alerts when something big is about to happen, like a TV snooze alarm for floor votes.

Seventy-six percent think TV cameras should be allowed to show the entire chamber, break-takers be damned. And the same percentage thinks it a good idea if there are actual debates, you know, where somebody says something and somebody else responds, back and forth without Wolf Blitzer.

According to Robert Green, C-SPAN's pollster, the message of the results is: "Accept the Digital Age. The quickest way to rebuild confidence in the institution of Congress, now at an all-time low, is to make it accessible."

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: C-SPAN; CafePress

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