House Panel Approves New Web Video Rule

Posted October 2, 2008 at 6:46pm

The House has officially joined the YouTube generation.

A majority of the House Administration Committee agreed to newly revised rules permitting Members to post Web videos outside of the house.gov domain.

The revision, which was adopted Tuesday and mirrors a rule passed by the Senate Rules and Administration Committee on Sept. 19, means that House Members can now post their videos on any third-party site, as long as the videos contain official Member content.

It will take effect as soon as language can be incorporated into the committee handbook, according to House Administration spokesman Kyle Anderson.

The third-party Web sites do not have to be screened, preapproved or scrubbed of any commercials or political advertisements, something that many House Administration Democrats had originally sought.

“This puts the impetus on the Member to know where they’re going to post their content, as opposed to having specific guidelines where you can post things,” Anderson said. “It puts the impetus on Members to be on top of where they post their videos and make sure [the sites] don’t reflect content the Member doesn’t want to be associated with.”

But some sort of rule change appeared inevitable; about 100 House Members were already posting videos of official content on YouTube, which technically has been a violation of House rules prohibiting Members to use a non-house.gov Web address.

The revision ends a year and a half of back and forth between members of the House Administration panel, where the differences exploded at a Sept. 25 committee meeting when ranking member Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.) tried to offer a resolution to adopt the Senate’s language.

Brady ruled Ehlers’ resolution out of order, and Rep. Mike Capuano (D-Mass.), who chairs the franking commission, blew up at the GOP side, fuming about how Republicans had thwarted negotiations on a relatively minor issue.

Later that day, Capuano released a statement noting the differences between Democrats and Republicans on the issue. Republicans, he said, “believe there should be no restrictions whatsoever” on where Member videos could be posted, while Democrats believe “official web video should appear on sites free from commercial or political advertising.”

On Thursday, Capuano spokeswoman Alison Mills said he would have no comment on the rule change.

In a statement released Thursday, House Administration Chairman Robert Brady (D-Pa.) sidestepped the previous acrimony, noting that the new rules “reflect a greater recognition of the need to provide flexible solutions to the opportunities and challenges presented by new and emerging technologies.”

The change was approved by a “committee poll,” which permits House Administration members to approve changes in House rules without having a formal meeting as long as a majority of the nine members agree to the alterations. It was not clear by press time whether more than five members had agreed to the rule change.