Select Committee on Broadcasting First Report



15-18 MARCH 1999

(a) Washington DC

The main purpose of this part of the visit was to examine C-SPAN's operation, which is often held up as an example of best practice. C-SPAN is a private, non-profit public service of the cable television industry, and earns its operating revenues through licence fees paid by cable systems that offer the network to their customers.

The cable industry created C-SPAN (Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network) in 1977 to provide live, gavel-to-gavel coverage of the US House of Representatives. Since those early days, C-SPAN has grown into a diverse information service that provides public affairs programming 24 hours a day in a variety of formats. Today the cable industry remains the primary distributor or the C-SPAN networks, and continues that distribution as a service to the public.

C-SPAN is a non-profit educational organisation with a board of directors comprised of executives from large and small cable television operating companies. While the board establishes network policy and provides financial oversight, it is not involved in C-SPAN's editorial decision-making.

By 1982, C-SPAN's schedule expanded to 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Today, C-SPAN has a staff of 260; its round-the-clock programming is available to 70 million TV households via nearly 6500 cable systems. In June 1986, the US Senate began televising its proceedings, and the cable industry created C-SPAN2 to telecast Senate debates.

15 March 1999

Residence of HM Ambassador

Informal briefing meeting with HM Ambassador, Embassy Officials, American and (US-based) British journalists and broadcasters.

16 March 1999

Offices of C-SPAN

Ms Carolyn Deady, International Producer, and Mr Steve Scully, Manager and Political Editor.

Mr Terry Murphy, Vice-President, Programming.

US House of Representatives

The Hon J Dennis Hasstert, the Speaker.

Mr Lew Ketcham and Mrs Annie Tin, C-SPAN Congress Field Producers.

Ms Tina Tate, Director, Radio and TV Galleries, House of Representatives.

Offices of C-SPAN

Ms Joanne Wheeler, Education and Marketing Services Manager.

Mr Brian Lamb, Chief Executive Officer, and Mr Bruce Collins, Vice-President and General Counsel. (During this meeting the Committee also held a telephone conference with Mr Brian Lockman, Chief Executive Officer, Pennsylvania Cable Network.)

(b) Ottawa

In 1994, the Canadian House administration initiated a network (similar to the Palace of Westminster's PDVN) entitled the Office Automation Systems and Information Services (OASIS) Network, which, unlike the system in Westminster, enables Members to have access to, for example, broadcasts of House debates and televised committee meetings; audio feeds of Senate proceedings; demand video that replays tape-recorded programmes on request; and audio feeds of committee proceedings.

The Committee also used the opportunity to discuss with Canadian Members and officials how savings of some C$2 million was realised through a partnership with CPAC (Cable Public Affairs Channel), a consortium of Canadian cable television companies now responsible to the satellite distribution of parliamentary proceedings.

17 March 1999

Residence of the High Commissioner

Informal briefing meeting with the High Commissioner and Officials.

The House of Commons

The Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs (Chairman, Mr Peter Adams, MP).

18 March 1999

The House of Commons

Mr Louis Bard, Chief Information Officer, Information Services Directorate, Ms Audrey O'Brien, Clerk Assistant, House Proceedings, Ms Elaine Diguer, Chief, INet and Multimedia Services, and Mr Jean Leduc, Manager of Operations, Broadcasting Services.

The Canada—UK Inter-Parliamentary Association (Chairman, Mr Peter Milliken MP, Deputy Speaker).

19 MAY 1999

Office of BBC Parliament, 4 Millbank

Mr Nigel Charters, Managing Editor, BBC Parliament, Mr Richard Rose, Managing Director, Millbank Studios, and Mrs Mary Wimbury, Head of Public Relations, BBC News.

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Prepared 5 July 2000