[Paleopsych] National Press Club Newsmaker Luncheon with Brian Lamb
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National Press Club Newsmaker Luncheon with Brian Lamb, President and Founder
December 6, 2004 Monday
Moderator: SHEILA CHERRY PRESIDENT OF THE NATIONAL PRESS CLUB
LOCATION: THE NATIONAL PRESS CLUB, WASHINGTON, D.C.
MS. CHERRY: Good afternoon, and welcome to the National Press Club. My name
is Sheila Cherry. I'm a reporter with the Bureau of National Affairs and
president of the National Press Club.
I'd like to welcome club members and their guests in the audience today, as
well as those of you watching on C-SPAN or listening to this program on
National Public Radio. Please hold your applause during the speech so that we
have time for as many questions as possible. And for our broadcast audience,
I'd like to explain that if you hear applause, it may be from the guests and
members of the general public who sometimes attend our luncheons.
The video archive of today's luncheon is provided by ConnectLive and is
available to members only through the National Press Club website at
www.press.org. For more information about joining the National Press Club,
please contact us at 202-662-7511. Press Club members may also access
transcripts from our website, and non-members may purchase luncheon
transcripts, audio and video tapes by calling 1- 888-343-1940.
Before introducing our head table, I would like to remind our members of
some upcoming speakers.
On December 14th, David Eisner, CEO of the Corporation for National and
Community Service, will be here to discuss "National Service at 10 Years:
Lessons Learned and Future Directions." On Wednesday, January 12th, Senator
Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts will be here. And on February 4th, in 2005, Hank
McKinnell, chairman and CEO of Pfizer, Incorporated, will be our speaker.
If you have any questions for our speaker, please write them on the cards
provided at your table and pass them up to me. I will ask as many as time
I'd now like to introduce our head table guests and ask them to stand
briefly when their names are called. Please hold your applause until all head
table guests have been introduced. And I will tell you, today our head table
is primarily the officers and governors of the National Press Club Board.
First is Governor Mark Hamrick of the Associated Press Broadcast; Jonathan
Salant, reporter for Bloomberg News and National Press Club treasurer; Susan
Swain, executive vice president and co-chief operating officer, C-SPAN, and a
guest of our speaker; Sylvia Smith, bureau chief for the Fort Wayne
Journal-Gazette, and secretary of the National Press Club; Steve Janger,
president and CEO of the Close Up Foundation, and a guest of our speaker;
Clayton Boyce, a former National Press Club president, and the vice chair of
the National Press Club Speakers Committee. Skipping over our speaker
momentarily, Doris Margolis, president of Editorial Associates, and the
National Press Club Speakers Committee member who arranged today's luncheon.
Thank you, Doris. Rob Kennedy, executive vice president and co-chief operating
officer for C-SPAN, and a guest of our speaker; Rick Dunham, White House
correspondent for Business Week Magazine, and vice president of the National
Press Club; Governor John Gallagher, associate editor for Traffic World
Magazine; Governor Alison Bethel, Washington bureau chief for The Detroit News;
and Governor Gerry Bastarache, a former naval officer and a member of the
National Press Club Board of Governors. Thank you. (Applause.)
Our speaker today is the founder, chairman and CEO of C-SPAN. He has done
for journalism, through his vision and his allegiance to its highest ideals,
what he's done is nothing short of revolutionary. He has transformed the face
of modern-day journalism, and we are at his debt. This year marks the 25th
anniversary of the founding of C-SPAN, the acronym for Cable Satellite Public
Affairs Network. Brian Lamb has been its leader and its guiding light ever
since its creation in 1979. Officers and governors of the National Press Club
have gathered today at our head table to celebrate this very meaningful
anniversary, and especially to pay homage to the remarkable man who made it
We have also mounted a commemorative exhibit in the National Press Club
lobby showcasing the first 25 years of C-SPAN's bountiful gifts to the American
The concept of a public affairs network that provides in-depth coverage of
national and international issues was a natural for Mr. Lamb, who has been both
a journalist and a political press secretary. Interested in broadcasting from
childhood, he worked at Indiana radio and TV stations while attending high
school and college, spinning records, selling ads, and eventually hosting the
locally popular, "Dance Date" TV program. (Laughter, applause.)
After graduating from Purdue University, Mr. Lamb joined the Navy. His tour
included White House duty in the Johnson administration, and a stint at the
Pentagon Public Affairs Office during the Vietnam War. He later worked as a
freelance reporter for UPI, a Senate press secretary, and a White House
telecommunications policy staffer. In 1974, he began publishing a bi-weekly
newsletter called "The Media Report." He also covered communications issues as
Washington bureau chief for Cable Vision Magazine. It was from this vantage
point that the idea of a public affairs network delivered by satellite began to
His work for the Navy and the White House had convinced him that there was a
significant information gap between the government and the American public with
the media serving as the transmitter of this limited communication. The 1970s
deregulation of satellite and cable television industry offered him an
opportunity to rectify this situation. With the financial support of cable
systems operators, Mr. Lamb succeeded in negotiating the right to cable-cast
live coverage of the sessions of the U.S. House and Senate. Organizing C-SPAN
as a not-for-profit company, the group built one of Washington's first
satellite uplinks just in time to deliver the first televised session of the
United House of Representatives to 3.5 million cable households on March 19,
1979. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Today, C-SPAN employees 275 people, and offers three 24-hour television
networks: C-SPAN, C-SPAN2, and C-SPAN3. C-SPAN is the flagship network and
provides a gavel-to-gavel coverage of the U.S. House of Representatives. It
also offers coverage of daily political events from Washington, including
congressional hearings, White House briefings, news conferences, policy
seminars, and more. C-SPAN2 was created in 1986 to cover U.S. Senate
proceedings. On weekends, C- SPAN2 features Book TV -- 48 hours of non-fiction
book programming from 8:00 a.m. on Saturday through 8:00 a.m. on Monday.
C-SPAN3 was launched on a 24-hour basis in January, 2001, and is available to
systems offering digital cable packages.
C-SPAN also carries our National Press Club speakers luncheons, such as the
one today, plus, many of our club newsmaker programs and other events.
C-SPAN has been an extensive presence on the Internet that can be accessed
at www.c-span.org. In addition, C-SPAN programs WCSP, an FM radio station
serving the Washington-Baltimore area, and nationally on satellite radio.
While we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the birth of C-SPAN, we also note
another milestone that occurred yesterday -- the 800th Booknotes program,
created and hosted by Mr. Lamb since its founding in 1989. Sadly for its many,
many fans, yesterday's was the last installment in that popular series. I know
our audience will want the inside scoop here, and I'm sure Mr. Lamb will not
So I am pleased to turn the microphone over to the gentleman who has most
inspired that phrase from incoming callers, "Thank you, C- SPAN."
Ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of the officers and governors of the
National Press Club, I present Brian Lamb, chairman and CEO of C- SPAN.
MR. LAMB: Thank you very much, Sheila. I'm glad to be here, especially to
commemorate your year, which is about over, and Rick Gunner (sp) if he gets
elected -- there's nobody opposed to him -- as the new president. God, I hope
he gets elected after -- with that kind of a slate. (Laughter.) He goes back
with us to the very early days when he used to be a guest on our network, which
is fun to have him rise to this position.
Clayton, who used to be the president, we used to see him on C- SPAN all the
time, just handed me the first question I'm supposed to answer.
It's a brilliant question. "How did you come up with the name for C-
SPAN3? " (Laughter.) I want to put all this into perspective for you. I came
down the short ride in a cab, and a very nice cab driver. As we're riding down
here, about half-way down, he said -- he said, "It's been about a year since I
had a VIP in my cab." And I said, "When was the last VIP?" He said, "Well, I
have one right now." And I said, "Who do you think I am?" (Laughter.) They
always get it wrong. And he said, "Well, I can't -- I can't remember the
name." He says, "Is it Daschle?" (Laughter.) That's brand new. I've never
heard that one before. (Laughter.) I said, "No, but if it was par for the
course, it would be, Are you Senator --" No, he said to me, he said, "You
know, I see you giving speeches all the time in the Senate." (Laughter.) So I
-- I mean, I've told this story so many times. It still happens. "No, I'm not
Senator John McCain." (Laughter.) They all think that.
It's particularly, I think, important for everybody to know a couple things
about the National Press Club, because we have been here -- this is our 1,670th
luncheon that we're covering today. We've covered every one since January the
2nd, 1980, Paul Volcker. And we have no contract with the Press Club. We have
really no conversation with the Press Club. They do their thing, and we do
ours. And I think people outside of Washington don't understand how it works.
They have a committee that chooses speakers. And as a matter of fact, when
they called me about three or four months ago and said they'd like to have me
come do this, I kept saying no. And I finally asked Carol Toohey (sp), who I
work with, I said, "Carol, tell those nice folks down there, I don't have
anything to say." (Laughter.) And the word came back as, "We don't care
whether you have anything to say or not." (Laughter.)
So if this thing is a bust today, I am really sorry. (Laughter.)
I want to spend a little time today talking about people. I did this -- I
was here eight years ago, January 6th. And I talked a lot about my chairman of
my board then, the people who have really made a difference in making this work
from the cable television industry who started with us from the very beginning.
But I left out a lot of people, because I think the great story about C-SPAN is
that it's not me. I've loved what I've done. I've gotten an enormous amount
of attention. I've begged reporters, please talk about some of these other
people, because that's what the story's about. It's about a lot of people
building something, almost like a Legos thing. I mean, this thing came
together, it evolved, it was built step by step. And along the way, there were
people that you've never heard of that, had they not been there, we wouldn't be
I'm going to go back for a little bit, way back, to the 1970s, and the
revolution in communications started in 1975, when Home Box Office went up on
the satellite. And where we are today almost 30 years later is about where I
thought we'd be. We're a little bit behind. I thought it would be just a
little farther along, but not much farther along. And I think that's the
toughest thing for people in the news business to understand, especially in the
television news business, people I've known for years. But it's painful for
them, especially the old-timers. I read in USA Today a quote this morning by
Andy Rooney, and I'm just going to read it: Andy Rooney says, "CBS Evening
News has been an important factor in life in these United States. There is no
sense in having a democracy unless you have an informed electorate. The
evening news on the three networks has been a vital element in the education of
the American public. As the evening news diminishes, the information that the
public has to make intelligent decisions in diminished."
Yes, and a big no. When he says that CBS News being watched less and less
diminishes the information flow for the American people, I think he misses a
tremendous amount of stuff that's happened in the last 25 years.
Today, we have 23 C-SPAN employees in the audience that are participating in
what we call our C-SPAN Week, where we bring them together for a week, and we
just talk about the background. Now, this is a two-fer today for me.
Normally, I speak to these folks, and give them the so-called big picture, or
really, it's "bring the geezer in, and let him talk about the past so we can
start from the beginning." (Laughter.) "We'll get rid of him, and then go on
But those 23 folks are in the audience, and so I'm going to give you a
little bit of the same stuff that I give our C-SPAN Week people, because I
think it's really important for people to know it.
If you go back to about 1974, I got out of the government. I was in the
Office of Telecommunications Policy. I worked for a terrific guy named Clay
Whitehead. I learned a tremendous amount from those folks, and I was out on my
own, writing a newsletter about the media. And I needed work, but more than
anything else, I wanted to start something that would add to the information
flow in the United States. I had no money. I didn't have a sophisticated plan.
And I went to the National Cable Television Association meeting in New Orleans
by myself and found myself at a luncheon just like this. Senator Hathaway of
Maine was speaking. And I found it -- I just happened on a chair -- there were
a couple of very attractive young ladies sitting there, and I sat between them.
(Laughter.) On one side, was Judy Lockland (sp) and on the other side was
Barbara Reuger (sp). And they said, what are you doing here? And I told them
my story. And they didn't say much, and we had a nice conversation, and they
said, well, if you're every in Denver, let us know. The magazine was based in
A couple months later, I went to Denver to visit my friend, Paul
Fitzpatrick, and I called Barbara Reuger, and I said, "I'm here. I'd like to
come over and see your magazine operation." I arrived at the magazine. Totally
unbeknownst to me, Barbara said, "How would you like to be our Washington
bureau chief? We 'll pay you a thousand dollars a month. You can write a
column. You can do some interviewing." And I was an amateur photographer; I
could do a little bit of that. And she knew what I wanted to do, and she said,
"You know, we'll put your picture in the magazine, and every week, the industry
will start to get to know who you are. And then if you really have a good
idea, some day, you can present it to them."
It never occurred to me. I went to work for them. It lasted about eight
months. I needed more money. I needed more opportunities to build this thing.
The fellow that ran the company called me in one day, and he said, "We just can
't afford you." It wasn't a lot of money. I just needed -- $1,000 a month isn
't exactly making a lot of money. He said, "We can't afford you, and really,
we don't think your idea makes a lot of sense. And so, if you want to do this,
you better think about some other place."
So I just said, you know, it's probably time for me to go. Thanks for what
you did. Have a nice life. I walked out the door. And the next day, I got a
call from somebody by the name of Bob Tisch (sp). Not the Bob Tisch (sp) you
might be thinking of. Not the Bob Tisch (sp) of New York. The Bob Tisch (sp)
of Denver Colorado. Bob called me up, and he said, "I've heard what you want.
I'll pay you what you need to work for, and I will do what I can to help you
build this idea. And we want to put you on the payroll and put you in
Washington as -- to work with Pat Gooshman (sp) out there as a national
I went to work for Bob. The first think that impressed me was the first
paycheck came overnight mail to my home. That'd never happened to me before.
(Laughter.) But Bob said to me -- I said, "Here's what I want to do," and he
said, "I'll tell you what. I'm going to get on the phone. I'm going to call 15
cable television executives, and I'm going to ask them for a thousand dollars.
And with that $15,000, we'll go out and buy a camera and a tape recorder and we
'll promise them only one thing: an interview with some figure from their cable
television district that they can run on their local access."
So, Pat Gooshman (sp) and I went all over Capitol Hill. We sat down with
members of the House and Senate. One of the first ones was Andrew Young of
Georgia. Another one was Jack Danforth from Missouri, and lots of others. We
shipped the tapes to their district. They ran the tape, and that was real
beginning of C-SPAN. Nobody asked about content. Nobody told me what to ask.
Nobody cared about that. These 15 people ended up supporting the very, very
Once we started in 1979, we had no cameras except that little camera, which
we couldn't use. We flipped the switch on the House of Representatives.
And a young fellow came to see me by the name of Tom Gerrard (sp). Tom
Gerrard (sp) worked for Steve Janger, who's sitting here at the dais. He was a
consultant. He was an old friend of mine. Unfortunately this year he passed
away at a young age of 58. He said that Steve is interested in figuring out
some way to get the kids that they bring to Washington on television, having
that experience. And I said I don't have any cameras, I don't have any
microphones, I haven't got anything, I haven't got any money. (Laughter.)
Before it was over, Steve agreed to buy two RCA TK-76 cameras and a tape
recorder for $162,000. I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. (Laughter.) And
the only deal was they would own them, you could use them -- C- SPAN could use
them -- and we would cover about four events every week with high school
That was the beginning of us covering hearings. That was the beginning of
us covering not the Press Club because Forrest Boyd's little camera came up
here every week to do that, but we started our first-ever call-in show and the
first-ever national television call-in show right over there in the back room
with those two cameras on October the 7th, 1980. We've been doing it every
since, and we do three hours of calls every day, seven days a week.
Now I'm going to do something that I've wanted to do for a long time. I'm
going to talk about Steve Janger.
(To Mr. Janger.) Put your hand up, Steve. Let everybody know who you are.
This man is retiring next year after an incredible 35 years of bringing high
school students and teachers to this town for their first-ever one-week
experience in civics in this town. He is not getting -- has not gotten the
slightest bit of needed credit for what he has done. He's never asked for it.
But listen to this. We hear all the things that people do for others. Listen
Since 1971, when he started his company with six people, he has brought to
this town 620,000 young people in high school, including 75,000 teachers.
(Applause.) And 180,000 of those students came on fellowships; they didn't
have to pay for the trip. The most important part about this is, and we see a
lot of this around town, I would have been able to come on his program because
I was not a great student, I was not an elite student -- I didn't make those
As, wasn 't the valedictorian of the class. And that's the way Steve set up his
organization; he wanted people to be able to come who were interested and maybe
weren't the A-students to have the experience.
I've never heard of anybody in this country doing more for civic education
than Steve Janger and his people. Some of them are here. Tom Milewski I see,
Kathy McNamara and others are here today that work for that great organization.
And since then, we've had a relationship. Eventually we got those cameras.
(Laughter.) They were ours.
Today we own about a hundred cameras. One of them is permanently on the
back wall. The way this thing has gone over the years, the way it's moved is
that now our director sits at C-SPAN at 400 North Capitol Street. All they have
to do is when the lights come on is -- (makes noise). The camera is already
on. They sit there and they move a little joystick and they can do all the
stuff here in this room from 400 North Capitol Street, and that's one of the
big changes that's happened in the last 25 years.
You know, the other thing is we cover a lot of events from this National
Press Club. I've asked Robert Browning, who is the director of our archive out
in Indiana, how many times -- since '87 the archive's been there. We've
covered 2,730 Press Club events over those years. Our cameras are down here
all the time.
Some of the other folks that I want to talk about are people in our industry
because the one thing that has made C-SPAN a success is around the country
individuals in these communities say put C-SPAN1 on, put C-SPAN2 on, and,
Clayton, even C-SPAN3. (Scattered laughter.) And that's the part you don't see
because we don't make a dime for anybody. We don't have any stock. Nobody
owns it. It's guided by the cable television industry that started it. And
the strength of it comes from people, American citizens, who believe that this
openness in communications is absolutely necessary for a society.
That's -- when I hear what Andy Rooney is saying, I almost want to say, hey,
Andy, what about C-SPAN1, 2 and 3, CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, Discovery, Arts and
Entertainment? Go down the list of all of these. Fox News, it doesn't matter.
A tremendous amount of additional material. Even though people get upset with
some of the stuff these networks do, there is a tremendous amount that they do
that is incredibly positive, interesting, and I know everybody in this room
finds themselves watching it. You might be criticizing it, but that's
television. Television is criticized all the time and always will be because
it 's in the home.
I didn't experience -- I can show you how tough it is to sell something like
C-SPAN. All of us have tried to sell it. Back in about 1983 or (198)4, I was
frustrated because The Washington Post wouldn't carry our listings. And so I
called -- one day I was talking to Bob Rosencrans, who was our first-ever cable
operator to give me a check for $25,000 to start it. And I said, you know,
"Bob, The Washington Post won't even carry our listings down here. How do you
expect anybody to know we're even around?"
He said, "Well, I'm a personal acquaintance of Katherine Graham. I'll call
her. We'll set up a meeting. We'll go in and talk to her."
And my -- Bob's a really nice guy, but the last thing I expected Katherine
Graham to do is to pick up the phone and say put C-SPAN's listings in the
paper. It just didn't work that way. But I said, "If you want me to meet with
her, I'd be glad to."
So he came down here. We were having a meeting over at her office and we
went into The Washington Post. And as we came in, we said -- you know, Bob
Rosencrans said, "I'm here to see Katherine Graham, an appointment at noon."
And the word came down from up top, "Katherine Graham is not here. She
expected to meet you in New York at the Newsweek office." (Laughter.)
So Bob and I looked at each other, I mean, and he said, "Are you game?"
I said, "Sure."
He said, "Let's go." (Laughter.)
So we went out to the airport, got on an airplane, flew to New York, got
there about 1:30, something like that. Mrs. Graham graciously brought us into
her office. And as I walked in the door, she didn't pay a whole lot of
attention to me. I'm used to that, so it didn't surprise me. She was glad to
see Bob Rosencrans, and they sat down. And I sat over in a chair and they sat
on the couch, and she basically didn't look at me for 30 minutes. (Scattered
And she said, "Bob, why can't I get my company into cable television? My
people won't let me buy cable systems." And I'm sitting there going, this is
amazing. This is one of the most powerful women in the world and she's saying
her people won't let her into cable television.
Well, Bob was giving her advice. Finally she turned to me and she said,
"Now, who are you again?" (Laughter.) And I told her who I was. And she said,
"Now, what do you do?" And she said, "What is that?"
And I realize that in 1983 or (198)4, Katherine Graham had no idea what
C-SPAN was, but I thought a little bit longer and realized that there was no
cable in Washington. It didn't happen in her home, so why should she know what
we are? Well, I explained it to her and told her how frustrated we were with
the listings, and she nodded and thanked me and everything else. Well, here we
are 20 years later; The Washington Post still doesn't list C-SPAN. (Laughter.)
However, Mrs. Graham's company bought cable television. They own close to a
million subscribers. Tom Might is on our board of directors. They have 100
percent carriage of C-SPAN. And they have got these little systems all over
the United States and almost 80 percent of coverage of C-SPAN2. And he has
systematically been putting -- it's actually more than that; it's about 88
percent -- C- SPAN2 on all the systems.
And it's just always interesting to me how hard a sell this is based on the
fact that good people don't understand it. They don't understand -- for
instance, I'll tell you right now a lot of people in the audience are saying
how do you get your money? We had Tom Wolfe on a program yesterday for three
hours and I was fortunate enough to host it. And first thing he said to me, he
says "How does this work? Explain to me. How do you get your money?"
We don't have any advertising. We don't have ratings. We don't have
personalities. We get our money simply this way: we get a nickel every month
from every customer that sees C-SPAN in their home. Our budget for a year is
somewhere around $45 million. Our industry's been very generous with us. We
have plenty of money to do our job. We don't need a whole lot more than that to
do our job. We have not 275 employees; we're down to 256 and doing quite well
with 256 employees. It's a simple place with a simple mission: let the
American people have the opportunity to watch public events in their entirety
and make up their own mind. It works.
And it works because of Bob Tisch (sp) and Barbara Reuger (sp) and Steven
Janger and a guy named Bill Bresnan.
Bill Bresnan is 71 years old, I think, today. Happy Birthday, Bill, if you
're out there. One of the great people ever in our industry. I met him 30
years ago. And over the years -- he used to run Teleprompter, one of the
biggest, and then he got out. And then he bought cable up in the upper part of
Michigan, and then he got out. And now he's back.
And this time, though, he did serious civic work for this network and this
country. He bought systems out in Utah, Wyoming, Colorado and Montana. And he
called me the day after he bought them and he said -- because it was a disaster
area for us. The previous owners in many of those areas didn't have the same
civic responsibility. And he said, I'm going to put C-SPAN1 and 2 and 3 on all
those systems out there in those four states. And today we're 100 percent
C-SPAN. We're in the 90 percentile for C-SPAN2, and he just announced nine
systems will have C-SPAN3. That's all because one guy who lives up in
Westchester County and has been a committed civics and government- interested
individual for all these years made the difference.
So as I stand here -- and I'm going to open this up to questions, because I
could go on for a long time -- as I stand here, we're pretty lucky -- and as we
go through the questions, I'll get into some of the other things -- we're
pretty lucky that here we are 25 years later, we're in business, we're at our
1,670th Press Club luncheon -- which is one of my favorite things.
And I'll give you an example. Ross Perot has spoken here nine times. He
started in 1970. He last spoke, I think, in 1998. When he went on the Larry
King show and everybody went crazy, back before the '92 election, anybody that
ever watched C-SPAN and anybody that was from the Press Club knew that wasn't
the first time he was introduced to America. We knew because, like the Press
Club, we sell tapes of these occasions, and it still is today the
largest-selling tape ever in the history of the Press Club, Ross Perot. It was
not a surprise to us when he ended up on that show. We knew that there was
something about him that was connecting. And it's hard to get through that
glass tube back there. There was something that was connecting.
So as I say as I stand here on this 25th anniversary, I want to show you two
things. This is how far it's all come. This is brand new. It's called MyFi.
This is brand new. It just came out on December the 1st. I can walk out of
this building, plug this into my ear, anywhere in the United States this is all
I need to listen to C- SPAN Radio. It comes off of XM Radio. All 130
And we have one other little thing that is so clever. Where is that,
Robert? Have you got it yet? When you get it, we'll come back to you.
It' changed so dramatically over the years. And there are a lot of other
things we can talk about, but this is the latest, your ability -- and our
industry -- and it's easy for me to say this -- our industry has led us to
basically provide the C-SPAN services to all the competitors -- to the
satellite folks, 30 percent of our businesses now.
Here it is. (The sound from a C-SPAN broadcast is heard.) That's C-SPAN2,
and that's a phone. You can watch it anywhere you want to go on Sprint. You
can call up C-SPAN1 and C-SPAN 2if you're that connected. Now, that would be
what we would call a super-strangely-positioned -- (laughter) -- C-SPAN junkie.
But we'll take them any way we can get them.
Anyway, love to take your questions. Thanks for having me. (Applause.)
MS. CHERRY: Thank you, Mr. Lamb.
The first question is, what do you see as the future of public- interest
MR. LAMB: Well, one of the difficulties is that when people have a clicker
and 330 channels choice, and all the new technologies, and they don't choose,
for instance, the evening news shows, it's tough on the folks that work in
journalism, but it's freedom. And it's up to us to provide the best
public-service programming we can. And we have a model, an economic model, and
you can't tell, might last longer than the others because we don't have to
earn, every quarter, a significant amount of additional money for anybody. We
have to do our job, stay within our budget.
And that provides us with an opportunity that the others don't have. I
wouldn't want the pressures that are on at NBC, ABC and CBS. And the market --
the Wall Street requirements are going to drive it more than anything else. So
with this thing called the Internet and lots of other technologies that are
going to come along we don't even know about, public-service programming is
going to be there. Whether or not the American people choose to watch it is
the bigger question, it seems to me.
MS. CHERRY: That said, do you think network news is an endangered species?
if so, what are the major contributors to that evolution?
MR. LAMB: Well, if the network news folks don't change their economic
model, it could be an endangered species. But I think, again, business people
have a way of finding a market, and if there is a marketplace out there for a
news show, they'll figure out a way to do it. The trouble we have now are a
lot of older folks in our business who are in love with the romance of 30 years
ago. I understand it. I'm from that era. I understand how strongly they feel
about it. But they defined what they thought was network news and what was
important for people to see.
The public now is defining what they want. And that's tough on people who
have created something. I mean, someday I may be somewhere saying, "Well,
C-SPAN was a great idea or a while, but people proved they didn't care about
this stuff and we're no longer in business." I think if you protest too long
that you're the only way that people can get information, it makes it even
tougher when people being to choose other places to go.
MS. CHERRY: Have the call-in questions that you receive changed in quality
or tone in the past 25 years?
MR. LAMB: There's been a seismic shift in the political discourse in this
country in the last 25 years, primarily because of all the new outlets. If you
had watched yesterday afternoon for three hours with Tom Wolfe, your reaction
would be I can't imagine a more intelligence audience asking more interesting
questions. In the morning between 7:00 and 8:00 seven days a week on C-SPAN's
"Washington Journal," we have an open forum where the public can call up and
say almost anything. And we get almost anything. (Laughter.)
I love it. It's my favorite hour of the day. In spite of the fact that
sometimes people say, "Who was that wack job that just called?" the strange
thing about it is that "wack job" is behind you at the supermarket.
(Laughter.) You're surrounded by people who don't -- you should be -- who don't
think and talk and act just like you. And the thing we've done by having this
open forum is that we don't take a right or left side; we don't challenge the
audience to be thinking like everybody else. And you listen to any of these
interesting call-in shows that are on some of the radio networks, they have a
point of view. So they either exclude people from calling in who they don't
agree with, or if they let them in, they beat the living daylights out of them.
And we take a different course. We let people say exactly what they want to
say, and sometimes it just doesn't sound like the way you think normal people
ought to talk. But let me tell you something. More than once they've been
MS. CHERRY: How concerned should Americans be about the First Amendment;
specifically, as this person puts it, erosions contained in the Patriot Act and
the intelligence bill that Congress is finalizing? And another question asks,
what is the current state of First Amendment freedoms in our country? Do you
think that we are better or worse off than when C-SPAN first started?
MR. LAMB: I think the First Amendment is in incredibly strong position in
this country in spite of what people write and think about. And I don't want
to comment on the Patriot Act and all that. It's really easy to get in trouble
on that one.
But here's why I say what I say. We have been through a lot of difficulty
since the Vietnam -- Vietnam, that's my era -- since the Iraq war. From the
time period before we went to Iraq in March of 2003, all through the voting
period, all to now, we have had our phone lines divided.
And leading up to that war, we had people vociferously against the war
calling in every other call, screaming they were against the war, critical of
George Bush, saying very strong things about the president of the United
States; and then the next call would come in very much for him. Never once has
anybody called us and said, "You can't do that"; suggested that the criticism
was too harsh.
And if your First Amendment's in trouble, the first thing you have happen is
somebody makes a visit to your office and says, you know, that's entirely too
harsh. I think the biggest problem you have is that people -- and it also, by
the way, works when you -- and there's nothing wrong with this because I think
it's very healthy, when you start to suggest the First Amendment's in trouble.
I wouldn't want to have a vote on the part of the public. The good news is we
do not have to have a vote on the part of the public because the First
Amendment is a very -- but you know, if we had a debate for a year, I guarantee
you that at the end of that year, this public would vote for it because they
would start talking about freedom of religion, freedom of assembly, freedom of
speech, freedom of the press. And most people forget it; they think it's only
freedom of the press. The press is as free today as it wants to be. I've
never seen any indication whatsoever that we were in any kind of trouble. And
people say stronger things on C-SPAN than I've heard anywhere else in the
MS. CHERRY: Now that Booknotes have come to an end, is there an author that
you wish that you had interviewed? Who was the most interesting person you
have interviewed? And how do you prepare for an interview? Do you read the
author's latest book? Do you read what others have said about the author? Put
differently, how do you go about getting into his or her head?
MR. LAMB: Well, I'm not really particularly interested in getting inside
their head. I'm really -- when I interview -- and the best way to prepare for
a Booknotes interview -- which there will be no more, but there will be a lot
of interviews -- is to just read the book. It's that simple. You don't have
to do anything else. The worst thing you can have is somebody prepare
questions for you or do research. It's better when you feel what you've read
and you have it first-hand, because tucked away, buried in Chapter 7 on page
123 is a nugget that you can't get and some researcher may not notice because
it may not be of interest to them.
I got to share a couple of e-mails with you that I got today. They've been
coming in from the day we announced Booknotes was going away, and people say
some really interesting things. This is my favorite this morning. It comes
from Frank, Frank Arundel (sp) says, "Subject: Adieu." This is short. "I wish
you might have ended your series, which I have followed religiously, on a
better note. Thank you for your time. Frank." (Laughter.)
Brad Weiner (sp) of Mt. Kisco, New York, says, "I just read The New York
Times" -- there was a story on Saturday. He said, "No, no, no, no, no, no, no,
no, no! I hate you! I hate you! I hate you! What am I supposed to do now?!
You're only 62" -- wrong! I'm 63. "You're in your prime. Think of what
Beethoven did at your age." (Laughter.) "Okay, he was dead for five years.
Bad example!" (Laughter.) "If I was a famous name, I'd do it for nothing. I'd
even pay to do it. See what Rather or Brokaw plan. They don't need money.
Maybe Hillary Clinton; give her something to do besides run for president.
Wait! How about her husband recovering from surgery? It will be perfect.
He's a Rhodes scholar. Maybe he wouldn't give an author a chance to speak."
He goes on. He goes on. That's the kind of --
We're going to start a new show. And most people who have heard us say
Booknotes is over, haven't listened to what we're doing. And that's our fault
because we haven't been very clear. First of all, we ended Booknotes at 15
years and three-quarters because I was just tired of spending 20 hours a week
on my own time, mornings and weekends, reading a book. It was just time; I
needed that time back. And it had been a great run, but it seemed like a good
time to do it.
We took the same concept -- and no one ever hears this part of it -- and
have moved it over to Book TV. It's a little different in the sense that we're
asking guest interviewers to interview book authors every week. The first
program, which I think will be interesting to watch, and we'll have all kinds
of combinations, is Norman Ornstein interviewing Newt Gingrich. Now, they both
are at AEI, but it will be very interesting because Norman Ornstein says things
that don't track with what Newt Gingrich says. And so it will be fun to watch.
And there will be all kinds of combinations as we test this thing to see if
it's fun. It will be on every Sunday night at 6:00 and at 9:00. And it is
exactly the same concept as Booknotes.
The Sunday night show at 8:00, which I'll host a lot, not every week, is
called Q&A. Very, very interesting, well thought-out name for a show.
(Laughter.) And the first guest is a man named David Levin (sp) who's 34 years
old. He, 10 years ago, started the (KIP ?) Schools. There's one here, there
are three in New York, there are 38 in the United States. These are kids age 5
to 8 that they are teaching who are basically from families that don't have a
lot of money. And it's an interesting story. I've taped them already. I taped
three of them in New York last week. He was the first. The second one is Roger
Ailes of Fox News. And the third one is Brian Williams. And the fourth one is
Ron Peterson, who runs Johns Hopkins Hospital. And the fifth one is Shirley
Ann Jackson, the president of Rensselaer Polytechnical Institute, and I know
when I interview her on Friday, she's going to be talking way over my head
because it's all about science, and she's a well-known figure in that world.
So we're going to try to find people and interview them a little bit
differently than other places. We have an hour. We want to know more about
them and their lives and what they've built. And that will start next Sunday
night at 8:00.
I didn't answer the last one, but I'll let you go ahead and ask another one.
MS. CHERRY: Well, you did answer one, and that was will there ever be a
C-SPAN4. So thank you for that.
What -- (laughter). What did the media learn from the 2004 elections?
Should the news programs and networks do away with exit polls?
MR. LAMB: The exit poll business is their business. We don't participate
in it. It's very expensive. I think it's -- what happened this year kind of
speaks for itself. And they're going to fool with it and talk about it, and
when all is said and done, they'll do what's in their best interest. We'll
live through it as a country. Even with the exit polls mistakes were made in
2000, a lot of people voted -- a lot more people voted this time since I think
I think the media -- and I may even hear some groans on this. I think the
media did a great job covering the 2004 elections. Ask yourself this question:
What more could they have done? We had thousands of hours with all these
characters on our network. They bird-dogged them all over the United States.
I would say that in the end, they did come to the debates and those debates
made a difference, I think.
But in the end, you almost have to ask yourself, did the candidates give of
themselves? Were they willing to be cross-examined during the process? This
is probably the most interesting story of what's happened over the last 25
years, is how people who are in public life have really gamed the television
industry, partly because it's our fault and partly because they want to control
their image; that's the interesting question, is if you won't open up to
questions and won't be cross-examined, and the public doesn't care, then what
are you going to do? I think the -- I don't know how you better do it.
The websites alone, the fabulous amount of information -- you could go on
the website and put in a zip code and find out everybody in the neighborhood
that gave to a candidate. You could get on every day and find out all 13 or 14
polls that are being conducted around the United States and compare them one
against the other.
You could get on our networks -- and one of the most interesting statistics
for me in the entire year was during the Republican and Democratic Conventions
-- and we are the largest streamer on the networks of anybody in the business,
we stream three networks, you can watch them anywhere in the world -- we had
4,000 people in China who watched the Republican and Democratic Conventions.
And it's -- he says 4,000 people out of 1.3 billion -- that's not the issue.
We keep hearing that in China you're blocked, you can't get to this
information. And it would be really interesting to know who those 4,000 people
are. But, you know, we went around -- 20 percent of our streaming on the
website came from people who live outside this country.
So this world is changing phenomenally and quickly, and this whole business
of how the campaigns were covered, you can talk about it till you're blue in
the face, but I think our industry has done a very poor job in criticizing so
strongly, but that's what we do. I mean, we spend more time talking about
ourselves than anybody in the world -- the media business. We got people
studying from one point of view or the other point of view. In the end, the
public will decide who they watch, who they read.
It's a marketplace decision. You can't force them to do it. And neither
can the Federal Communications Commission or the Congress pass laws that will
force people to watch or not watch anything. They may do some damage -- my
suspicion on a long-run basis they won't be able to, through the court system
-- some damage to the over-the-air licensed television stations and radio
stations, but in the end the public will watch what it wants to watch. The
genie's out of the bottle. You can't put it back in. The thing that people in
this country want more than anything in the world -- and this is true of
everybody in the world, and it sounds like a cliche but it's true -- it's
freedom and it's choice. (Applause.)
MS. CHERRY: Should the Supreme Court open its arguments to C- SPAN?
MR. LAMB: No. (Laughter.)
They have not asked me. They doubt if they ever will ask me. Someday the
Supreme Court will go on television. The group that's there now won't put it
on television. It'll take a new generation.
And it's always intrigued me as to why they don't want television cameras.
One, the oral -- there are only 75 oral arguments a year. Two, most of those
decisions are made on briefs, not made on oral argument. Three, they make the
decision behind closed doors in a conference back in the back. No one ever
sees that. There aren't any minutes of those meetings. And that's where they
make the decisions and have their discussion.
It's the informing function of the Supreme Court on television that matters.
And, interesting, Bill Rehnquist has sat down with us four times for one hour
each to talk about the court, talk about his books, more than he has anywhere
else. We've had nothing but a positive relationship with Chief Justice
Rehnquist. Now the other side of that is Antonin Scalia, who, if a camera
comes near a room where he is speaking, he'll either order the camera out or he
won't talk. Those are the extremes.
And at some point in this process the Supreme Court will decide that it's
better to have the public understand what they do and be able to see all these
arguments, and when that comes is anybody's guess. I just hope, for the fun of
it, it's in my lifetime.
MS. CHERRY: Speaking of extremes, can you comment on the jail sentence
imposed on Judith Miller, the reporter with The New York Times?
MR. LAMB: We had Judith Miller on our program on Friday morning and I asked
her if she doesn't win this appeal this week on Wednesday in the U.S. Court of
Appeals, will she go to jail, and she said yes. It's a bit daunting to think
that Judith Miller or Matt Cooper or others will go to jail over this issue.
I personally think it's outrageous. I think the idea of putting somebody in
jail because they won't cough up who their sources are about an article that
they haven't written is crazy. I'm talking as a generalist. I don't know the
details on it. But even if I did know, I think I would find it to be
ridiculous. This country operates on a First Amendment that requires this kind
of back and forth.
The leaking of information in this town is in the interests of people in
this country. I used to be one of the great leakers of all time. (Laughter.)
And one of the men I leaked to is sitting right over here, the wonderful Dawson
B. Tacknell (ph). And we did it, rightly or wrongly, because of the way the
whole system works. We have $2.2 trillion of your money being spent by people
in this town, and you see how haphazard it can be when you pass bills in the
middle of the night and you bring in stacks of the bill that nobody ever reads
and it's got something like 11,000 items in there worth 20-some billion
dollars, money is being spent. This is the way the system has to work.
And if Judith Miller and Matt Cooper go to jail, you're -- I think you'll
see somewhat of a firestorm in the entire country. They don't realize it now.
They might say, yeah, got 'em. Some people on one or the other side might say
that's the good thing; we finally put those reporters away. But you know,
reporters aren't of any value to anyone until their side's being gored, and
then all of a sudden you love the fact that somebody has written an article to
expose either the corruptness or the malfeasance or whatever it is. So hold on
for dear life, but my guess is that either this court or the next one will
throw this thing out.
MS. CHERRY: Mr. Lamb, as I'll ask our officers and governors to join me at
the podium, I'd like to present to you the much-coveted National Press Club
MR. LAMB: It's simply gorgeous. (Laughter.)
MS. CHERRY: (Laughs.) We aim to please.
And -- everybody's here -- on behalf -- oh, we're supposed to squeeze in
closer, I'm told. It's my great honor to give this to you, this token of our
appreciation. And it reads: "National Press Club, In Appreciation and
Recognition to C-SPAN for 25 Years of Service to the American Public from 1979
to 2004," serving the journalism community -- that's "The National Press Club,
Serving the Journalism Community Since 1908." Thank you. (Applause.)
MR. LAMB: Actually, if we were in the plaque-giving business, we'd turn it
right around on the National Press Club. I think if the public understood the
value based on the amount of work -- volunteer work that these folks do, of
having the ability to have a forum where a human being can stand up and say
exactly what they want to say, they would grow to appreciate the value of 1,670
speeches over the last 25 years. It's a very, very important part of what we
do, and it made a statement early in our network that we were going to let
others decide who was of value and who was of value to be heard. And that
works pretty well, except in my case. (Laughter.)
MS. CHERRY: Thank you. And again, we do appreciate you being here, and
also to the members of C-SPAN. And if you would stand up and be recognized,
we'd like to thank you for all of your efforts as well. We've got shy C-SPAN
Now for the last question. It is knowing there was once a bar called
"Lamb's Place," where did you park the beer truck? (Laughter.)
MR. LAMB: If you've been around as long as I have, if this isn't Tak Nailes
(ph) -- (laughter) -- you got caught, Nail (ph). We parked the beer truck
right behind the bus. (Laughter, applause.)
MS. CHERRY: Thank you so much.
And I would like to thank National Press Club staff members Melinda Cooke,
Jo Anne Booz, and Howard Rothman for arranging today's luncheon. And thanks to
the National Press Club library for their research. And with that, ladies and
gentlemen -- (sounds gavel) -- we are adjourned. (Applause.)
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