Paul Bedard

C-SPAN, the little cable company that could when it started decades ago by airing boring House and Senate floor action, has become the influential public affairs channel that did.

Founder Brian Lamb, the soft spoken brains behind the idea funded by other cable companies, tells Whispers that his reach has now topped 100 million households, and doesn't even include the enormous presence it has on the Internet, especially with its new historical video library.

"Because C-SPAN first launched to just 3.5 million homes back in '79, you can imagine that reaching 100 million households is quite a milestone for our network," says Lamb. "It's also a real tribute to our cable industry founders and the cable and satellite companies who carry C-SPAN's unfiltered coverage of Washington to their customers."

What was once a public affairs channel has expanded to other channels covering congressional hearings, key political and policy speeches, and a major player in the presidential campaign world. What's more, Lamb made his weekend Booknotes show a must stop for up-and-coming policy book authors. And besides its three channels, it has also expanded to radio and satellite radio.

And if you still don't know what C-SPAN does or stands for, here are excerpts of the FAQ from their site:

What do the letters in C-SPAN stand for?

"C-SPAN" is an acronym for the Cable Satellite Public Affairs Network.

How is C-SPAN funded?

C-SPAN is a private, nonprofit business created in 1979 by America's cable television industry. Its operating funds are derived from monthly fees paid by affiliated cable TV systems and other distributors of C-SPAN programming. C-SPAN receives no funds from the government.

Who runs C-SPAN?

C-SPAN's board of directors is comprised of top executives in the cable television industry. The board establishes policy and oversees financial operations, but is not involved in editorial decision-making.

C-SPAN employs more than 225 full and part-time employees and is headed by chairman and CEO, Brian Lamb, and executive vice presidents, Susan Swain, and Robert Kennedy.

How do I get the C-SPAN Networks?

Carriage of C-SPAN, C-SPAN 2, and C-SPAN 3 is the decision of your local cable company. Contact your cable operator to find out if C-SPAN, C-SPAN 2, C-SPAN 3, and the audio networks are available in your area.

C-SPAN and C-SPAN2 programming can be received through a home C-band Satellite receiver. C-SPAN signals are unscrambled. These are the large dishes that are seen in rural areas and at some homes.

C-SPAN and C-SPAN2 can also be received on a subscription basis through the direct broadcast satellite services, DirecTV and Dish Network. This requires the purchase and installation of a home satellite receiver and a monthly subscription fee to DirecTV or Dish Network. Many retail stores sell these receivers and subscription services and can provide installation. Direct broadcast service (DBS) dishes are about 18 inches and can be mounted on roofs, sides of buildings, or in yards.

How do you decide what events C-SPAN will cover?

Every day our assignment desk reviews over a hundred events we have been notified about. Decisions are based on the number of cameras available, the public policy content of the event, our goal of providing balanced coverage, and the amount of coverage we have previously provided to this issue. The events we decide to cover the following day are posted on our site around 6:00 PM ET every evening on the schedule page for that day.

What are the titles of program theme music?

The following pieces are used on C-SPAN for various programs.

Washington Journal

Concerto No. 2 for Solo Trumpet and Strings (3rd Movement) Composed by Johann Melchior Molter

America and the Courts

Concerti 1,2,3

Composed by J.S. Bach


Oboe Concertos No. 5 in C Major (Track 1) Composed by Tomaso Albinoni

British House of Commons Question Time

Music for Royal Fireworks (Track 1)

Composed by Friedrich Handel






Television - C-SPAN Now Reaches 100 Million Homes