Brian Lamb/C-SPAN: Created By Cable

When Brian Lamb
convinced a bunch of cable
operators to support his
idea of televising Congress,
it changed the way Americans
view their government
at work. It gave the industry
something to rally behind
and support and the concept
of televising U.S. House
of Representatives and Senate
proceedings opened the
doors of state and local governments
to citizens around
the country. The NCTA will
present a special Vanguard
Award to Lamb and C-SPAN
for their service to the cable
industry and the nation during
the Vanguard Award
ceremony on May 23.

C-SPAN started out as
an idea in Lamb’s head. He
had been in D.C. for years
— first as a public-affairs
officer with the Navy and
later as a staffer for former
Colorado Sen. Peter
Dominick before moving
over to the Office of Telecommunicat
ions in the
Nixon administration. He
was constantly irritated
by what he saw that wasn’t
making it onto the nightly
news and vowed to change
that. He went to work for
Cablevision magazine in 1975 where his boss, Bob Titsch,
let him work on his idea for a public-affairs network.


After gaining the support of a group of infl uential cable operators
and receiving the blessing (albeit with caveats) from
the U.S. House of Representatives, the Cable-Satellite Public
Aff airs Network (C-SPAN) was born on March 19, 1979. The
network was the sixth in the cable industry to be delivered via
satellite. Since its launch, the cable industry has invested over
$1 billion helping expand the company into three high-def
channels, a radio network, an online digital library, a website
and a slew of social media outlets. C-SPAN television networks
can be viewed in more than 100 million households nationwide,
Lamb said. C-SPAN launched with just four employees.
Today, the non-profit company has 275 employees and has an
annual budget of $60 million, which is funded by a 6-cent-persubscriber
fee paid by the cable operators. C-SPAN’s slogan is,
“Created by Cable. Off ered as a Public Service.”

Joining Lamb to accept the Vanguard in Boston will be Susan
Swain and Rob Kennedy, who recently succeeded Lamb
as co-CEOs and who between them have more than 55 years
of service to the network. Lamb, who had served as CEO since
the company’s founding in 1978 and as chairman since 1985,
stepped down from the CEO role in March, elevating Swain
and Kennedy, who had served as co-presidents. Swain joined
C-SPAN in 1982 and Kennedy came on board in 1987. Kennedy
focuses on finance, engineering and technology, and affiliate
relations. He also oversees the management of C-SPAN’s
online video library. Swain has been one of C-SPAN’s on-camera
interviewers since arriving at the network as a producer
and currently oversees the networks’ programming lineup as
well as marketing and education outreach.


But Swain and Kennedy aren’t the only employees who have
worked for C-SPAN for a long time. Lamb said there are scores
of people who have been with the company for decades. “Why
do they stay? Well, it’s not about money. It’s about the passion
of building something bigger. It’s a wholly different concept
from a for-profit endeavor. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for an
open market and capitalism. This is a public service. Period.”

Public service, indeed. The company not only delivers unaltered
proceedings from the U.S. House and Senate, it has compiled
a unrivaled digital video library of everything C-SPAN
has shown on its networks since 1987. “The digital video library
was a game-changer for us,” Swain said. “The decision by the
board to digitize all of C-SPAN’s content and make it easily
accessible and shareable has changed our paradigm. It’s an
extension of our brand.”

In recent years, Lamb and C-SPAN have won praise and
recognition for their groundbreaking efforts, which have
been emulated in several democracies around the globe
and among legislatures in nearly two dozen U.S. states.
Lamb has been the recipient of the Presidential Medal of
Freedom, the Harry S. Truman Good Neighbor Award, the
Media Institute’s Freedom of Speech Award, the National
Humanities Medal, and the National Press Club’s Fourth
Estate Award. But he is always quick to deflect praise and
instead recognizes his veteran leadership team, his staff at
C-SPAN, and the cable industry that supports them.

“Brian is the essence of someone who tries to stay out of
the limelight,” Amos Hostetter, former chairman of Continental
Cablevision and a current C-SPAN board member,
said. “But what he’s done has changed the way American
government works and the right of the people to see how
their government works. You can’t understate the importance
of that. It’s been a fight all the way and Brian and the
entire staff at C-SPAN never give up trying to open doors
that have been closed to them or the public.”

Lamb isn’t riding into the sunset. He continues to be engaged
in overall direction-setting for C-SPAN and hosts his
weekly interview program Q&A. He is proud of the fact that
he has never once missed hosting that show — 52 weeks a year
for 23 years.

“It’s a real rush,” Lamb said. “I never miss a show, because I
learn so much every time.”