The Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network (C-SPAN) broadcasts proceedings of the U.S. Congress, as well as other public events and programs, on cable television. It is funded entirely by the U.S. cable television industry and receives no government support.
C-SPAN was established by Brian P. Lamb as a nonprofit venture in 1977. On March 19, 1979, C-SPAN began live and unedited television broadcasts of proceedings in the U.S. House of Representatives. On June 2, 1986, C-SPAN II broadcast, for the first time, proceedings on the floor of the U.S. Senate.
C-SPAN also broadcasts congressional hearings; call-in programs with elected officials, policy makers, and journalists; coverage of Democratic and Republican conventions and presidential campaigns; programs reviewing the activities of the U.S. Supreme Court and developments in the law; coverage of such events as the annual meetings of the National Governors Association and the U.S. Conference of Mayors; speeches at the National Press Club; proceedings of foreign legislatures such as Canada's House of Commons and the United Kingdom's House of Commons; and many other public-affairs programs.
As part of its mission, C-SPAN seeks to provide direct access to proceedings of government in the United States, free of the editing, commentary, and analysis that are typical in most other media. In 1989, ten years after C-SPAN's first broadcast, the network was available in 40 million homes. On this tenth anniversary, Congress issued a resolution honoring the cable television industry for funding the public affairs channel and for 'the invaluable contribution it has made and continues to make toward informing and educating the citizenry of this Nation and thereby enhancing the quality of its government of, by and for the people" (S. Con. Res. 22, 101st Cong., 1st Sess., 135 Cong. Rec. S2732-02 ).
C-SPAN has expanded its programming since the mid-1990s. Like many other cable television networks, it has added such sister stations as C-SPAN2 and C-SPAN3, both of which are available to millions of cable subscribers. C-SPAN has also expanded to radio and has added content developed for internet users with broadband access. Regular programming on the C-SPAN stations includes American Writers, American Presidents, and Book TV. According to a survey conducted by the network in December 2000, about 28.5 million people watch C-SPAN's programming each week. More than 90 percent of those who watch the network are registered voters. More than half are in the 18- to 49-year-old demographic. About 48 percent of the viewers are women.
C-SPAN is increasingly used in school classrooms as a teaching tool. The network offers a program called C-SPAN in the Classroom, which included free membership and resources to educators who use the network's resources in the classroom. For classrooms that do not have cable access, C-SPAN offers videotapes and web access so students can view the content. The network also offers a Teacher Fellowship Program through the C-SPAN Education Foundation to honor educators who have demonstrated creative use of the programming in the classroom.
Frantzich, Stephen E., and John Sullivan. 1996. The C-SPAN Revolution. Norman, Okla.: Univ. of Oklahoma Press.