House Gets Digital Cameras, But No HDTV for Now

Posted January 31, 2003 at 6:28pm

The cameras on the House floor are going digital.

Last Tuesday the House floor proceedings were recorded for the first time using high-definition TV cameras. Because the signals are not yet digital, C-SPAN viewers wouldn’t have noticed the difference, but updating the cameras was a necessary first step toward broadcasting the chamber’s deliberations in HDTV.

“We are constantly looking at ways to strengthen the technological infrastructure of the House, and improve communication between the Congress and the American people,” House Administration Chairman Bob Ney (R-Ohio) said in a statement. “This is the first time in more than 12 years that the cameras in the House chamber were replaced, and it sets us on the path to having the House proceedings broadcast in HDTV in the very near future.”

The old cameras had been in place since 1989. In addition to being outdated, the old technology made the equipment difficult and often expensive to service.

Although there is no specific timeline for the broadcasting switch to HDTV, Ney spokesman Brian Walsh said the new cameras constitute a “significant improvement to the technological infrastructure of the House and sets us on the path to broadcast soon in HDTV.”

The cameras in the House recording studio were also replaced last week and together with the new House floor equipment cost $1.9 million.

The money came out of the Chief Administrative Officer’s budget. Infrastructure improvements are overseen by CAO Jay Eagen.

The next step will be for the Architect of the Capitol to upgrade the “back-of-the-House” equipment to support the digital format. That process could begin in the next year or so.

Once that infrastructure work is done, it will be up to C-SPAN to convert the systems to be able to broadcast the HDTV signal.