The Revolution WILL Be Televised

John Lewis and fellow lawmakers sitting on the House floor. You go, John.

Regardless which side of the political aisle you occupy, if you’re not totally absorbed in what’s happening in Congress right now, you certainly can’t call yourself a media expert. IMHO, you may not even be able to call yourself an American. Because you’re looking at our media future.

Democratic Representatives have occupied the floor in the House for nearly 24 hours, exhorting Congress for a vote to close the “terror gap” in gun sales. Speaker Paul Ryan demanded that they stand down; when they did not, he cut the House camera feeds, ending coverage on C-SPAN, and presumably, any other media outlet.

Welcome to the 21stcentury, Paul. Led by California congressman (and fellow Duke grad) Scott Peters, lawmakers whipped out their cameras and began livestreaming the proceedings via Periscope and Facebook Live. In due time, C-SPAN picked up the feeds. And a movement was born.

Never mind that the House cameras are a tax-supported activity designed to provide transparency in the lawmaking process — the fact that the Speaker can cut them off at all is deplorable.

What’s remarkable is that this media revolution came from the most unexpected places: a branch of government and a free cable channel. Perhaps that’s how it had to happen, given that there’s no tangle of content rights or license negotiations surrounding coverage of Congress.

Non-sanctioned cameras have certainly played their part in the political process for years. It’s possible to argue that Mitt Romney’s entire 2012 campaign was brought down by his “49%” comment caught by a camera on the sly at a fundraiser. However, this is the first time that the participants themselves are providing the media live: both creating it and influencing its outcome. I expect we’re going to see an explosion in livestreaming on the political trail, and indeed, in any situation where the participants are actively invested in the effects it produces. And we’re going to see more powerful mainstream media outlets start adopting these feeds, further muddying the line between journalism and activism.

On the whole, I think it’s good. At least, until it’s not.

Originally published at on June 23, 2016.

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