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Editor's View: C-SPAN rolls into region

By: Don Chaddock, Telegraph Managing Editor
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If you spotted a big purple bus around the area recently, then you may already know C-SPAN was here. C-SPAN is that cable and satellite TV channel, or series of channels, airing government meetings such as the House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate and the daily White House press briefings. How do I know all this? Because C-SPAN’s Rebecca Stewart was kind enough to share that information with the Rotary Club of Historic Folsom at their early morning meeting on Thursday at Lake Natoma Inn. “This is the third incarnation of the bus,” Stewart said. “It’s been going on for 16 years.” Many TV viewers became familiar with the bus during the 2008 campaign. “We had two buses crisscrossing the country,” she said. Now the bus is known as the C-SPAN Civics Bus and tours the country 11 months each year visiting middle schools, high schools and universities. C-SPAN stands for Cable Satellite Public Affairs Network and was founded in 1979 as a way for the general public to have access to all the information from government meetings and speeches, not just a 10-second soundbite. “We are not a government channel,” Stewart said. “We are funded through (cable and satellite) subscriber fees. We don’t have to sell advertising and receive no government funding.” C-SPAN actually has three networks, numbered one through three. The first is available in 97 million homes and focuses on gavel-to-gavel coverage of the House of Representatives. The second, coming into 82 million homes, covers the Senate. The third, in 28 million homes, covers “breaking news” when the House and Senate are in session. The channels also offer specialty programming such as Book TV, running on the second channel every weekend. But, back to the bus. It also functions as a mobile TV production studio and has a crew of four to five who travel with the bus full time. According to Stewart, it’s used about 25 percent of the time as a TV studio. The rest of the time, it’s an educational tool for the schools. Stewart, by the way, resides in Washington, D.C. After hearing her speak about C-SPAN and its mission, I might be more inclined to tune in. Rebecca, thanks for stopping in Folsom. Don Chaddock can be reached at donc@goldcountrymedia.com.