By Andy Scott
SHANGHAI, Nov. 7 – Brian Lamb, the founder of C-SPAN, received the Medal of Freedom on Monday from U.S. President George W. Bush.
The president honored Lamb along with seven other prominent people including the novelist Harper Lee and Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in a ceremony at the White House. The Medal of Freedom, the United States’ highest civilian honor, was awarded to Lamb for creating the Cable Satellite Public Affairs Network, American television’s answer to the town hall meeting.
C-SPAN is a private, non-profit company created as a public service to provide access to the political process in the United States. The network has a faithful following in the United States and around the world thanks to its live coverage of government and an extensive video archive available online.
The bulk of the coverage consists of House and Senate floor proceedings, presented uninterrupted and without commentary, which at times can be long on procedure and short on action. As President Bush remarked in presenting the award, “C-SPAN is not what you call exciting TV, though the call-in shows do have their moments.”
It was one of those very call-in shows where this editor first got his start in media, having been offered a job on the morning call-in show “Washington Journal” after a six-month internship with the same program.
I worked for the show for a year, helping put Brian Lamb and his fellow hosts in front of the 52 million viewers who watch the network regularly. It is a job that I remain immensely proud of to this day.
While C-SPAN focuses mostly on the U.S. political process, international coverage, including the weekly airing of the Prime Minister’s questions from the UK, does appear on the network’s three channels. For those of us in China, it remains an accessible media outlet that carries China-related stories from time to time, most recently the Congressional Gold Medal ceremony that raised Beijing’s ire and a “Washington Journal” segment with Beijing-based Atlantic Monthly correspondent James Fallows.
The network also carries many House and Senate Committee hearings that focus on the mainland – yesterday the House Foreign Affairs Committee took Yahoo executives Jerry Yang and Michael J. Callahan to task for the company’s role in the jailing of Chinese journalist Shi Tao.
Having gone through the 17th Party Congress and its staged theatrics here in China, it is always refreshing to see how bland and boring real governmental proceedings can be (when they are not filled with rancor and heated emotions that is). CCTV and the rest of the Chinese press have a long way to go to catch up to the mark set by Mr. Lamb’s network.
In an interview with The New York Times, Lamb said that the award was more for the American people. “Everything about C-SPAN is a cooperative. Our success, if that’s what you call it, is really based on the interests of the American people.”
Congratulations on your award Brian, it is well deserved.
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