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C-SPAN Archives: History, Statistics, And Location

April 25, 2007

Who knew that C-SPAN’s archives are only about an hour and a half away from Chicago?

A story today from the Chicago Tribune‘s Jason George lays out all of the information, including some history of C-SPAN itself. Here are some excerpts:

– “Purdue University, just across town, volunteered to house [C-SPAN’s] archives in 1987, as C-SPAN entered its eighth year on cable television and sought a home for its often one-of-a-kind programming. A partnership was formed, and on Sept. 15, 1987, the C-SPAN Archives recorded its first program of a contentious confirmation hearing for federal Judge Robert Bork, then a candidate for the U.S. Supreme Court. ‘Our vision was to help provide a better understanding of how our government works through this archives collection,’ said Brian Lamb, the C-SPAN founder who remains its chairman and CEO, and who is a Lafayette native and Purdue alum.”
– “The C-SPAN/Purdue partnership wasn’t meant to be. . . . It unraveled in 1998 when a university administrator took issue with the fact that the archives doubled as a business, selling video s of C-SPAN programming. This difference of opinion led the archives to its current location, where, 20 years after that first Bork tape, the enterprise continues to amass any and all things C-SPAN and fulfill customer orders made by telephone, mail and through C-SPAN’s Web site.”
– “Providing access to the inner workings of government was the goal of the C-SPAN cable channel when it first broadcast to 3.5 million television screens in 1979. Now, 27 years later, C-SPAN, which stands for Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network, appears in nearly 91 million homes — fewer for its two sister stations, C-SPAN2 and C_SPAN3 — and it continues to air civic-minded programming every hour of the day.”
– “Who pays for the three C-SPAN channels? You do — a nickel a month — if you’re a cable or satellite subscriber, whether you find the channels fascinating or dry as desert dirt. The U.S. government, despite the popular misconception, has never owned, funded or operated the network” (bold mine).
– “Running the archives remains an economic wash for C-SPAN — station staff report that the venture both generates and costs about $1 million annually — but that could change as the catalog further digitizes and becomes easier to access, said Rob Kennedy, C-SPAN’s co-president and chief operating officer.”
– “Approximately 40 percent of the archives exist in a digital format, which C-SPAN began using in 2002. Last year C-SPAN installed a “VHS Tape Robot” to help expedite the conversion of videocassettes to digital media, and the archivists hope to finish the process by the end of 2008.”
– “A regular C-SPAN viewer is most likely to be a white political moderate, younger than 50 years old and interested in a wide range of news, according to a study last year by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. The study also found that while the percentage of people who get their news from C-SPAN has decreased slightly in the last 10 years, when compared with other cable networks, the average C-SPAN viewer is more likely to be college educated than regular viewers of the other channels.”


The article link contains, at the bottom, a list of the Top 10 most sought after C-SPAN programs. Number one was a debate between Alan Dershowitz and Alan Keyes about organized religion.

Good stuff, and hopefully of interest to H&E’s Chicago-area readers. – TL


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