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Friday, January 05, 2007

National Press Club Backs C-SPAN for a More Open Congress

The National Press Club (NPC) is supporting a call by C-SPAN for a more open U.S. House of Representatives.

C-SPAN, which has used its access to Congress to inform Americans in a responsible and reliable manner for decades, recently asked newly elected House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to ease restrictions on what its cameras can film of the House floor and to provide immediate access to electronic records of House votes. Both actions are needed to give the public a fuller accounting of Congress.

Pelosi turned down the request for greater camera access and is considering the request regarding voting records. The NPC asks that she reconsider her rejection of the camera request and adopt both C-SPAN recommendations.

"The public's right to know includes the right to know what its representatives are doing on the House floor," NPC President Jonathan Salant says. "Making Congress more open and more accountable is in thepublic interest."

C-SPAN is currently allowed to film only the member who is speaking in the House, but not other activities occurring in the chamber. In addition, the network does not have immediate access to electronic voting records, though they are produced instantly, and thus has to wait before being able to share them with the public.

In turning down the request, Pelosi says, " ... I believe that the dignity and decorum of the United States House of Representatives are best preserved by maintaining the current system of televised proceedings. Under the current practice, every word spoken in an exchange between Members or between the Chair and a Member is broadcast live. This programming
informs the American people and ensures an accurate historical record. It has served the American people and the House and Senate well since the advent of televised proceedings nearly 30 years ago."

The National Press Club comprises nearly 4,000 reporters, editors, public information officers and others associated with the profession of journalism.

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