Rep. Bera Seeks Declaration of House Camera Independence

Rep. Ami Bera (D-Calif.) has introduced what he calls a "simple change" to House rules that would insure the next House sit-in does not have to rely on Periscope or Facebook video streams to get out.

Bera told C-SPAN in a radio interview with C-SPAN that some of his colleagues did not know that it was the Speaker of the House (in this case Paul Ryan of Wisconsin), not C-SPAN, who controlled the cameras in the House.

Bera said democracy was about transparency and that shutting off the cameras during the sit-in over gun legislation was a wakeup call. In addition to introducing a bill, he has sent a dear colleague letter to drum up support for the move.

He said that C-SPAN and other media should have the ability to cover members when they are speaking from the floor, as they did during the 24-plus hour sit in--currently the rules say the cameras shut off when the House recesses or adjourns.

C-SPAN kept covering, however, relying on social media video feeds from tech-savvy Democrats participating in the protest.

Bera said the change, a "simple rule fix," would make sure the public has full access.

C-SPAN has long sought to have its own cameras in the House chamber, but to no avail.

Bera said the public should be outraged that the cameras should be cut off. "The people deserve to see what's going on."

He told C-SPAN he figured most viewers assumed C-SPAN was part of the "public domain," adding: "We ought to give control of those cameras back over to the media and the public and have independent control."

C-SPAN is indeed a public service, but it is provided thanks to the financial support of the cable industry.

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.