C-SPAN’s objective is to offer their viewers unrestricted coverage of live proceedings in the U.S. House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate, and other public policy forums where discussions, debates, and decisions are made. They strive to provide an impartial presentation of various perspectives without any editing, commentary, or analysis. Nonetheless, their dedication to fulfilling this goal has been challenged because they chose not to send a crew to air the House Judiciary Committee’s field hearing in Yuma, Arizona, on the current crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border.
— House Judiciary GOP (@JudiciaryGOP) February 16, 2023
According to sources on Capitol Hill who spoke to Townhall, C-SPAN Congressional Editor Robb Harleston initially showed interest in the idea of covering the hearing when they informed him of it earlier this month, describing it as “great.” However, the following day, Harleston declined to air the hearing citing the “absence of [Democratic] members of the hearing.” Despite Republican staff trying to convince Harleston that it was an official hearing by the Judiciary Committee on a topic they had jurisdiction over, he insisted that since Democrats chose not to participate in the hearing, C-SPAN would not broadcast it. He also mentioned a lack of personnel as another reason for their decision.
House Democrats alleged that they were not consulted regarding the field hearing, but GOP staffers had actually been in communication with them for more than three weeks about the Yuma hearing. Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH) had even publicly invited Democrats to attend the first hearing on the border crisis. C-SPAN’s director of editorial operations, Ben O’Connell, explained in a statement that the network considers various factors when making daily editorial decisions, such as the level of interest from a national audience, the witnesses involved, and maintaining balance in perspectives over time. This approach allows for the possibility of covering events where only one party is present.
It seems that C-SPAN is inconsistent in their coverage of field hearings. In 2019, C-SPAN aired a field hearing organized by then-House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) in Los Angeles, even though no Republicans were in attendance. This fact undermines the justification provided by C-SPAN for not broadcasting the Yuma hearing.
Amidst the controversy, C-SPAN is currently pushing to have their cameras permanently installed on the House floor. However, some are accusing C-SPAN of displaying a bias against Republicans and only covering events that align with Democratic interests. As a result, some are calling for Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy’s (R-CA) office to seek out alternative outlets to cover House proceedings, instead of allowing C-SPAN to have a monopolized and biased control over the coverage. This situation is seen by some as another attempt by Democrats to manipulate the narrative and silence conservative voices in the media.