Politics

Why You Can't See the House Sit-In on C-SPAN

Live coverage on house floor is controlled by Republicans

Screenshot of C-SPAN during House sit-in.

The D.C. political world riveted its attention on a rare sit-in on the House floor Wednesday afternoon, but the closest C-SPAN's cameras could get to the action was the steps of the Capitol building.  

"House Cameras are not permitted to show sit-in," read a disclaimer notice at the bottom of the screen.  

[ Democrats Stage House Sit-In for Gun Vote (Video) ]  

That's because the news organization that chronicles every sneeze on the Hill doesn't control the cameras recording live feeds of the House chambers — the Republicans in the House majority do.  

This political demonstration was orchestrated by Democrats, and the Republicans responded by shutting down the session — and the cameras recording it — once the protest began.  

“We show the feed from the House,” said Howard Mortman, communications director for C-SPAN. “The House supplies the video, audio and the camera angle.”  

Live feeds of the House floor stopped, and Republicans declared a recess shortly after as many as 80 Democrats began staging the sit-in Wednesday morning. The Democrats demanded that GOP leaders allow votes on legislation to combat gun violence before heading home for district work.  

As Democrats continued to filter into the chamber throughout the day, C-SPAN alternated between live footage outside the capitol building, the brief segments it had recorded from the chamber before the cameras were shut off, and a call-in show from its newsroom.  

Democrats Stage House Sit-In For Gun Vote

Meanwhile, Democrats shared photographs and short videos on Twitter and other platforms.  

Democrats were not immune from criticism about selectively recording activity in the House when they were in control of the chamber. The cameras and microphones were turned off in 2008 when several dozen Republicans stayed on the on the House floor to discuss energy legislation after the House had adjourned for a five-week summer recess in 2008.  

During that demonstration, C-SPAN aired cell phone footage captured on the floor by Rep. John Culberson, a Texas Republican, who also uploaded his own pictures to an internet streaming service.  

Contact Akin at  stephanieakin@rollcall.com  and follow her on Twitter at  @stephanieakin .

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