It's a fittingly quiet birthday for C-SPAN

  • Article by: JOHN RASH
  • Updated: March 20, 2009 - 11:25 AM

C-SPAN hits 30 today!

What, you didn’t hear about its big birthday celebration?

That’s not a surprise. Because if there’s one thing most notable about the network is that it’s quiet. Oh sure, sometimes the prominent politicians it covers are loud, such as Rush Limbaugh’s  “state of the union” speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference that caused such a stir recently. Or when it went live with the “We’re going to South Carolina! and Oklahoma!...” Dean scream, the infamous invocation of states “all the way to Washington DC to take back the White House” by former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean that derailed his fast-track 2004 presidential bid.

But as for C-SPAN itself, in most cases it shows politics and policy debates as they happen, without any spin, let alone comment. This stands in stark contrast to cable’s confrontational (Jon Stewart vs. Jim Cramer) or confessional (over-sharing on MTV’s “The Hills”) culture.

This apolitical approach has worked well for a network all about politics. Unlike the gender, generational or geographic gaps that have grown into gulfs electorally, C-SPAN viewers generally reflect voters, according to a survey commissioned by the network. There is an even split between men and women and a 43/57 split between viewers under and over 50 years of age. Regionally percentages show viewers hail from Portland, ME to Portland, OR and from Duluth, MN to Duluth, GA: 25 percent live in the Northeast, 23 percent in the Midwest, 32 percent in the South and 20 percent in the West.

Not surprisingly, given its “speak softly and carry no shtick” approach, it’s ideologically balanced as well, with 31 percent of viewers describing themselves as “liberal” and 28 percent as “conservative.”

So Happy Birthday, C-SPAN.  And we heard you don’t want anything. Which isn’t a surprise, since the network that’s been a witness to growing government doesn’t have a wish list of its own: It’s never accepted a dollar of federal funding, instead relying on cable and satellite services for the $872 million needed over the last 30 years. Come to think about it, even for a quiet network, that’s something to shout about.

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