Thursday, September 11, 2008

Televise legislative sessions?

Televise legislative sessions?
Folks who want to know what the legislature is up to have long known about the ability to listen in to House and Senate sessions as well as committee meetings in the appropriations and finance committee chambers. It's a matter of just having an internet connection and following the audio prompts at the General Assembly's Web site (www.ncleg.net). And the N.C. Center for Voter Education (http://www.ncvotered.com/) has set up a system for listening to more legislative committees.
That's a big help -- but it works best for folks who can recognize the voices of those speaking. For those who don't know the 170 membrs of the General Assembly, listening to debates may not make much sense.
That's just one reason that advocates from the left, the right and the center are proposing the regular televising of House and Senate sessions.
Just this week, House Speaker Joe Hackney appointed a committee to study the feasibility, cost and other issues involve in broadcasts of House sessions. In a news release the speaker said, "Televising our sessions will give the people of North Carolina better insight into the work we do here and open up the process to more people in this state. We want our citizens to see and understand how their government and their elected representatives work for them.”
Chairing the House study committee will be former Charlotte broadcast executive Cullie Tarleton, now a state representative from Blowing Rock. He was senior vice president and general manager for WBTV, WBT Radio and WCCB-TV and a member of the board of directors for the National Association of Broadcasters when he was in Charlotte.
Among members of the committee are Mecklenburg Republicans Rick Killian and Thom Tillis, as well as Wake Democratic Rep. Grier Martin.
Hackney deserves credit for moving forward on this issue. It has been kicked around in Raleigh for a couple of decades, but there are concerns about how to do it properly. Some legislators worry the public won't think they're working hard if there's just a short, pro-forma session when not much is going on. Others worry that legislators will grandstand. Those are legitimate issues, I guess, but it all comes down to showing the public what goes on in a democracy, which isn't always pretty.
Meanwhile, there's support for televising sessions in the Senate, too. A bipartisan group including Sen. Eddie Goodall, R-Union, Sen. Janet Cowell, D-Wake, Sen. Malcolm Graham, D-Mecklenburg and Sen., Fletcher Hartsell, R-Cabarrus, sponsored legislation in the last session to study televising sessions and key committee meetings, too. Senate Republican Leader Phil Berget, R-Rockingham, joined Hackney in calling for televised sessions after Hackney announced the House study. In a letter to Senate President Pro Tempore Marc Basnight, D-Dare, Berger wrote, "I think it would be appropriate for the Senate to move forward with authorizing the study of televising legislative sessions and committee meetings, similar to the coverage of C-SPAN for U.S. Senate and Congressional matters. "
Basnight has expressed interest in televised sessions in the past. In 1992 he signed on to a Senate bill promoting televised sessions.

What do you think?

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

Sounds just as exciting as C-SPAN 1-3.

I guess it would be interesting for a few people, but for the rest of us I doubt people would actually care for it. Maybe if they added like factoids, tidbits, and humorous stuff like VH1's Pop-Up Video, then maybe it would be more tolerable.

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No one is going to argue that legislative debate is as intriguing as 24, but a window into governance does give citizens an easier option to participate... TV, aside from entertainment, can and should serve other interests.

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