C-SPAN Airing Periscope, Facebook Feeds

The House Democrats are staging a sit-in to force a vote on gun legislation, which has also turned into something of a blackout.

In response to that action, Republicans in control of the House pulled the plug on the House-controlled cameras used by C-SPAN to provide its public service coverage of deliberations there.

At press time C-SPAN was airing a Periscope video, as well as at other times a Facebook feed, of the sit-in.

"C-SPAN doesn't control the House cameras," the network said in an online post, "which have been switched off. However, we are showing you a Periscope feed of Representative Scott Peters (D-Calif.) of what is currently happening inside the chamber. (http://www.c-span.org/blog/?4024)

Democrats were taking turns decrying inaction on gun control legislation in the wake of the Orlando shooting. One legislator said they can't control what is in people's hands and hearts, but they can control what is in their hands.

Democratic legislators were chanting, "no vote, no break" and "no bill, no break," saying Speaker Paul Ryan had pulled the plug on C-SPAN, but adding that pirated Web video was drawing quite a crowd anyway.

The House is technically in recess, so typically C-SPAN would be showing other programming. A C-SPAN exec pointed out that was still the case, with that "other programming" being the extraordinary programming of a Congressman's live Periscope feed of the House floor protest. He confirmed that the cameras are controlled by the House majority.

It was safe to say that that Periscope feed was a first for the cable public affairs net.

Minority leader Nancy Pelosi called on Ryan to turn the microphone on at the rostrum where the protest speeches were being made.

Rep. John Lewis, a veteran of civil rights marches and protests, was among the leaders of the protest and was shown sitting on the floor with some colleagues as part of what was being billed as a sit-down strike to stand up for gun control legislation. "I never dreamed that one day I'd have to come into Congress, I would have to sit in on the floor of the House, sit down, and occupy the well of the House," Lewis told MSNBC of the protest. "More than 50 years ago, I sat in, got arrested, and went to jail, and now I have to come to Congress and I have to sit in again?  Just trying to get someone to sit down with us, negotiate about passing aggressive legislation to deal with gun violence.  It is almost too much.”

Debbie Wasserman Schultz read a letter of support from former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who was severely injured in an assassination attempt/mass shooting. "Speaking is difficult for me, but I haven't been silenced," a teary Wasserman Schultz read.  

The key issues for the Democrats are Universal background checks before gun purchases and not being able to legally buy a gun if you are on the terrorist watch list.

"The House cannot operate without members following the rules of the institution, so the House has recessed subject to the call of the chair," tweeted AshLee Strong, press secretary to Speaker Ryan.

NBC News Producer Frank Thorp tweeted this further explanation from a senior house aide.  "Regarding the camera footage of the House floor. All members of the House voted on rules governing floor proceedings at the beginning of the Congress. Cameras are only on when the House is in session. This rule of the House is being enforced, as it has been since TV cameras were first installed in the House."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.