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C-SPAN seeks a wider focus on the House

The network says it should be allowed to show the entire chamber, empty or not. Its poll finds that most voters agree.

November 21, 2010|By Andrew Malcolm and Craig Howie, Los Angeles Times

C-SPAN, as everyone knows, is a 31-year-old living national treasure financed by cable companies whose letters stand for Comprehensive-Substantive Programming Ad Nauseum. No "Speaking Like the Stars" contests on C-SPAN's three channels.

In modern Washington, C-SPAN has become the de facto national sedative for sanity in a hectic verbal swamp seething with name-callers and screamers. Keith Olbermann wouldn't even be allowed to buy decaf in C-SPAN's cafeteria.

When Armageddon occurs, C-SPAN will televise the mushroom clouds while taking viewer reactions to the end of civilization on phone lines for Republicans, Democrats and Independents.

Despite previous rejections by House speakers, last week Brian Lamb, the head calm person and C-SPAN founder, patiently wrote about-to-be-Speaker John Boehner (R- Ohio) seeking permission for the network to control its own cameras during full House sessions.

Currently, the cameras are House-owned and stationary on the person speaking. No reaction shots, no House panoramas, in part because the person speaking often has little audience but clerks.

The House, in fact, almost always looks like everyone's on break.

To back up his request, Lamb also commissioned a poll of 1,200 actual midterm voters. You may not be terribly surprised — and please do not audibly gasp if you are — to learn that an overwhelming number of respondents, plus or minus 2.83%, agree with Lamb on this whole openness thing.

Some 84% support House members using good old plain English without all that whereas and heretofore folderol.

Some 83% have the ridiculous notion that proposed legislation always should appear online for anyone to read at any time, like an ATM for laws.

About 80% would like alerts when something big is about to happen, like a TV snooze alarm for floor votes.

Seventy-six percent think TV cameras should be allowed to show the entire chamber, break-takers be damned. And the same percentage think it would be a good idea if there were actual debates, you know, where somebody says something and somebody else responds, back and forth without Wolf Blitzer.

According to Robert Green, C-SPAN's pollster, the message of the results is: "Accept the Digital Age. The quickest way to rebuild confidence in the institution of Congress, now at an all-time low, is to make it accessible."

The day after almost 5 million viewers watched Sarah Palin's reality TV show and in the same week she announced a nationwide book tour, Alaska's high-profile former governor has gained some further unexpected publicity.

And get this: It's from some seriously intelligent wordsmiths, who chose the famous –- or infamous — Palin word "refudiate" as their word of the year.

The made-up word tweeted and deleted within minutes on Palin's Twitter feed was announced Nov. 15 as the year's best new word by the New Oxford American Dictionary.

The elision of "refute" and "repudiate" Palin tweeted in a post in July lit up the social-media world and even featured in headlines in the national press. It follows last year's Facebook-themed word of the year: unfriend.

Palin's full tweet read:

"Ground Zero Mosque supporters: doesn't it stab you in the heart, as it does ours throughout the heartland? Peaceful Muslims, pls refudiate."

The dictionary's editors wrote in a release: "From a strictly lexical interpretation of the different contexts in which Palin has used 'refudiate,' we have concluded that neither 'refute' nor 'repudiate' seems consistently precise, and that 'refudiate' more or less stands on its own, suggesting a general sense of 'reject.' "

andrew.malcolm@latimes.com

craig.howie@latimes.com

Top of the Ticket, The Times' blog on national politics ( http://www.latimes.com/tickethttp://www.latimes.com/ticket), is a blend of commentary, analysis and news. These are selections from the last week.

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