Longtime C-SPAN Counsel Bruce Collins Retires

Bruce Collins of C-SPAN.

Bruce Collins (Image credit: C-SPAN)

C-SPAN said that corporate VP and general counsel Bruce Collins is retiring from the network, effective Aug. 2.

Collins's C-SPAN career began in October 1982 as a part-time employee when he was in law school at night, C-SPAN said in a writeup about him. He soon became director of operations and was later named general counsel when he was admitted to the DC bar. He was a VP of C-SPAN’s corporate parent and a trustee of the C-SPAN Education Foundation.

Beyond corporate management, he became a high profile advocate on First Amendment issues for C-SPAN, cable operators and journalism in general, C-SPAN said. Notably with his efforts with others in challenging the cable industry "must-carry" rules. As chairman of an American Bar Association group of lawyers and news media representatives he advocated televised coverage of the federal civil courts and helped organize a 4-year experiment of such coverage that led to a federal court rule that now permits greater TV coverage of courtrooms. Fourteen courts participated in that pilot program and several still offer television coverage to this day. 

Although Collins's efforts toward such TV coverage of the U.S. Supreme Court have yet to come to fruition — here is a story from 2000 on his Supremes-opening efforts — during the COVID pandemic the court took a welcome step toward greater transparency by providing live teleconference-based audio of its oral arguments.

Bruce Collins.

Bruce Collins (Image credit: C-SPAN)

"Bruce Collins has been a perfectly outstanding general counsel at C-SPAN for close to 40 years," C-SPAN founder Brian Lamb said. "He has guided our network through a labyrinth of tricky twists and turns in communication and corporate law during this time without a hitch. His guidance has been critical to our success. Bruce Collins will certainly be missed."

Collins created and authored the monthly column "At the Non-Profit Bar" that ran for 20 years in Corporate Legal Times magazine, later renamed Inside Counsel, addressing a broad range of legal and policy issues related to non-profit, tax-exempt organizations.

A member of the Cable TV Pioneers (mini profile from 2012 here), Collins was the founding president of the Supreme Court Opinion Network (SCON), a nonprofit coalition of legal publishers and news organizations created to provide a skeptical Supreme Court at the time with computers and software to distribute its opinions in real time across the country as they were announced from the bench. He also served for many years as pro bono counsel to the Radio and Television Correspondents Association on Capitol Hill, C-SPAN said.

“He believes he is the first person Brian Lamb hired who was not expected to, and did not, operate any television equipment,” C-SPAN said. “He did, however, host many call-in programs and conduct interviews with hundreds of prominent American political, literary and historic figures. [He is in 874 videos in the C-SPAN library.] Notable among his subjects were I.F. Stone, Studs Terkel, Jeff McNally, Oscar Brand, William F. Buckley, Dick Cheney, Elie Wiesel and Dr. Jonas Salk. He also interviewed the Cartoon Network character Space Ghost at a 1995 cable industry event. Hilarity ensued.“

Before coming to C-SPAN, Collins worked on political campaigns, including one with himself as a candidate, for vice chairman of the state Democratic Committee in New York. He was 19 years old at the time, the year the voting age was reduced from 21 to 18, he said. "My campaign represented the newly-enfranchised voters such as myself. That experience led to other roles in the Committee's statewide activities."

He was a legislative aide on Capitol Hill before joining the cable industry in early 1988 as director of government relations for the National Cable Television Association (now, NCTA–The Internet and Television Association). He has been a longtime supporter of and has raised money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. He also served on its National Capital Area board of directors, including a term as vice chairman.

Kent Gibbons

Kent has been a journalist, writer and editor at Multichannel News since 1994 and with Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He is a good point of contact for anything editorial at the publications and for Nexttv.com. Before joining Multichannel News he had been a newspaper reporter with publications including The Washington Times, The Poughkeepsie (N.Y.) Journal and North County News.