An Open Letter to Speaker Pelosi from C-SPAN Founder Brian Lamb


Dear Speaker Pelosi:

As your respective chambers work to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate health care bills, C-SPAN requests that you open all important negotiations, including any conference committee meetings, to electronic media coverage.

The C-SPAN networks will commit the necessary resources to covering all of these sessions LIVE and in their entirety. We will also, as we willingly do each day, provide C-SPAN’s multi-camera coverage to any interested member of the Capitol Hill broadcast pool.

Since the initial introduction of the America’s Affordable Health Care Act of 2009 in the House and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in the Senate

C-SPAN has televised literally hundreds of hours of committee hearings, mark ups and floor debate on these bills for the public to see. And importantly, we have archived all of this video for future generations to study in the C-SPAN Video Archives.

President Obama, Senate and House leaders, many of your rank-and-file members, and the nation’s editorial pages have all talked about the value of transparent discussions on reforming the nation’s health care system. Now that the process moves to the critical stage of reconciliation between the Chambers, we respectfully request that you allow the public full access, through television, to legislation that will affect the lives of every single American.

We hope you will give serious consideration to this request. We are most willing to employ the latest digital technology to make the cameras, lights and microphones as unobtrusive as possible.

Please contact me if I can answer any questions.


Brian Lamb

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20 replies »

  1. “…can’t even get the care they want.” The care they WANT??!!
    They are not entitled to the care they want unless they can pay for it!!
    The care they need is quite another question.
    Most people do not need the care they want. We should not fund the capricious self-indulgences of the worried well.

  2. I am no expert on the legislative process but I’m acutely, painfully aware of how dysfunctional today’s system is, how many people can’t even get the care they want, and I’m committed to causing change, after decades of lobbyist-driven resistance have gotten us here.
    I’m disheartened that so many smart people only want to talk about the political aspects and not focus on whether the job is even getting done: saving lives and getting costs under control.
    So in this case I support Paul’s point re transparency of process vs transparency of result. On his own blog he put it this way: “If this set of meetings is broadcast, the real negotiations will take place in a quiet room somewhere else on Capitol Hill.”
    Please, rather than kneejerking a response, think about that.

  3. Negotiations like this need to be held in private for effective compromises to be reached. Part of a negotiation is for each party to discuss how they are going to help the other party persuade his/her colleagues to go along with the negotiated agreement. You can’t really talk about such things in public.
    The C-SPAN fellow confuses transparency of result with transparency of process. Sometimes, the process needs to be held in confidence to build the kind of trust you need to reach an agreement.

  4. Doctors and Hospitals keep patient in Dark for the most part. My doctor never tells me the cost of the medications he is writing, the hospital does not tell me how much I can expect to be charged. If I have no insurance and I likely will get a low priced device or no device but if I have insurance then even a twinge of pain ( though I run 3-4 miles per day) will get me all the fancy tests and procedures whether it was required ot not. We get to hear about government interfering with their medical judgement though there is blatant overuse and misue of resources. SO where is the transparency in medical care?? C-span should broadcast those board meetings of hospitals, private insur, pharma, “how to keep up the profits”. I think that will be a eye opener for us all!!

  5. Dr. Motew, I specifically referenced the point of yours that I anticipated in my last paragraph. Hospitals literally want us to trust them with our lives but they won’t let us see the negotiations over whether the best rubber gloves are worth an extra penny over the ones that are “good enough” or the negotiations over how to handle a high-profile patient injury at their hospital? I’m personally outraged that they wouldn’t broadcast those meetings to the general public. How can I visit their hospital in good conscience? (End Mock Outrage)
    What’s funny is that you people think politicians are naive enough to actually negotiate in front of cameras. As many others have mentioned, all that would happen is that the real negotiations would happen off camera then they would have fake, sanitized negotiations for the cameras. This already happens with CSPAN today. What you see on CSPAN are the negotiations that happen after the real negotiations have happened.

  6. I can see both sides of the argument for a televised session. Spike makes good points about acting in front of the cameras and others make good points about wanting to see some of the process. I’m sure the reality is that even if we have carefully placed representatives of the process from NPR, Fox News, PBS, NBC, ABC, CBS, MSNBC, BBC, NY Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, LA Times, USA Today, etc. in the room taking notes and drawing pictures similar to a court room, we would only be getting the tip of the iceberg of the healthcare reform process.
    What we could learn from televising this is how our representatives compromise (negotiate) with one another. The beauty of this is that neither republicans, democrats or independents could falsely state whether they had a seat at the table. It would be far more difficult for one side or the other to politicize the event. I suspect that everything from the far left and far right would need to be removed from every bill and we will see how states and districts that have strong political beliefs attempt to hijack the nation as a whole. We and the world will finally see why Congress is such a dysfunctional body except in crisis. In the long run this might promote some positive change in the future.

  7. The public is easily mislead? How about the politicians! I would choose the collective wisdom of the public over the bought and paid for opinion of a politician any day.
    These are our lives and this is our money and you want to just trust the outcomes of closed sessions? Our forefathers would roll in their graves if they saw this attitude, this is counter everything they faught and died for.

  8. Spike,
    The flaw in your example regarding transparency with patient care is the fact that as opposed to hospital corporations and insurance companies, congress is elected ‘by the people’ and spends ‘our’ money, and thus should work for us.
    While the specific details of the legislation may be outside the realm of public understanding, the influence of special interest lobby and the closed door deal making expose the true motivation for some of the compromises, exactly what Obama campaigned to change.
    I think the upside of public transparency far outweighs the negatives.

  9. I don’t think I’m worried about the gory details, I’m worried that broadcasting the process will necessarily affect the process in ways that negatively affect the final outcome, i.e. the politicians know the cameras are rolling so there are no gory details discussed.
    Let’s face it, the American people aren’t always very bright. They often don’t know the best way to accomplish something. They are easily misled by good spin on an innocent bad choice of words. We all know this.
    I’ve got a deal for all the people who think we should see these negotiations. Let’s see all the internal negotiations for major hospital corprations, insurance companies, without the euphamisms. Let’s hear how they really discuss patients and nurses and medical costs and what they mean to them. When they do that, I’ll be all for hearing with the legislators are saying.
    But we didn’t elect the Aetna CEO? I’m sending him $500 a month to protect my life in a much more intimate way than the government protects it. I’m much more interested in the “gory details” of what he has to say than what Congress says.

  10. Have you all lost your minds? Behind closed doors, excluding replublicans? Basically Obama has shut anyone who disagrees with him out of the communication – including the American people. Too much info? Gory details? He is a representative, not a dictator and now CSPAN is calling him on the carpet. He lied about making these communications public to get elected and now he hides what he is doing because he cares nothing about what the American people want – his agenda and his ego are too large to be subjected to the will of the people. This is NOT a done deal. The American people are angry and getting angrier with every dismissive, arrogant act of this narcissist He and Reid and Pelosi have violated the Constitution and ignored the American people. This lazy, apathetic approach to more theft of our tax dollars and flat out lies to the American people; coupled with the disrespect for our way of life can not be ignored. How dare you all sit back and act like this is just the way it is. You don’t want to be BOTHERED with the “gory details”. For christ sake – do you know what is happening to our economy while you are too busy to be bothered with the details. We can not afford this bill and even if we could the American people have made it clear that this is not what we want. Our president is a coward, a racist, a thief and a liar. This administration and this bill are an attack on our way of life and a slap in the face of every ethical, hard working American.

  11. Whoration of fish is the servant and who is the master?
    I just saw Shamu and friends today at Sea World. The orcas and their handlers were spectacular. But the spectacle had me wondering why this could even occur. The whales did their thing and were rewarded with a ration of fish. It could only be due to the fact that the whales are in captivity, totally dependant on their handlers for their very lives. Without food given by their handlers they would starve. So they do their tricks to survive.
    Is that where we are now? Have we placed ourselves in captivity? We must do our tricks just to get healthcare from our handlers? If we fail to perform then we get nothing?
    Are we no longer government of, by and for the people? Are we crazy?

  12. Thanks for the posting.
    I think that full transparency in matters like this can inundate the public.
    I voted to elect people to do certain jobs, and it is up to me as a citizen to write to my congressman or senator. I think sometimes too much information can be harmful.

  13. Yeah, just broadcast in closed circuit to corporate lobbyists. We don’t need to bother with the gory details of government. It’s not like we have anything to say about legislation any longer.
    “They” will let us know when it’s all over. In the mean time let’s eat, drink and be merry…..

  14. Honestly we have been hearing about health care and more health care since December of 2008…. it is getting toxic now. Repub and democrats are partisan and getting worse by the day… and we all know the bill will pass for sure. How many hours has c-span covered thus far? It is not doing common public any good, I feel demoralized watching these politics, nothing in the past year was inspiring common public. Again, we all know a bill will pass, public will not be the ones deciding the final fate, the Lobbyists probably have more clout( as always).

  15. In this day of instant and ubiquitous communication, maybe we need less transparency to get things accomplished. More only feeds the talking heads.

  16. Good news!! The Street loves Health Care “Reform.” Big Winners: Big HealthCare – United Health Care, Humana, and Big Pharma- Merck, etc.
    Yay! We’ve been saved from the Big Evil Corporations, by being sold into their serfdom.

  17. On eight separate occasions, President Obama has promised to feature the health reform debate on C-Span. Here is his oportunity to deliver on his promises of absolute transparency, which leads to this limerick.
    There once was a U.S. President named Obama,
    Who possessed a gift for rhetorical drama.
    he promised repeatedly to televise reform proceedings,
    In response to public and cable television pleadings.
    Now we shall see if he’s the cat’s pajama.

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