Sunday, March 23, 2014

Government by TV

Are you a C-SPAN watcher? Do you turn on CitiLink and watch the City business happenings right in your living room? C-SPAN is marking 35 years of live coverage of the House of Representatives this week.   "It's probably the worst thing that happened to the Congress," Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, declared in an interview with USA TODAY. He goes on to say that he thinks the television coverage has contributed to the polarization between parties today.

That's partly true, I suppose. If you are a political junkie of any proportion, you have multitude of news outlets on TV to satisfy your interest. Add in the FOX NEWS, MSNBC, CNN, etc. and you can bombard your senses to eternity and never really know what is reality and fact.  

Let's be clear, however. FOX and MSNBC are not televising news. They are televising opinions and commentary. C-SPAN is televising actual official meetings of government in action without commentary.
Is what we are seeing on TV good government or is it the theatrics of elected officials pandering to their base? I'm not sure that is any better than the blathering we listen to on FOX or MSNBC, but it is certainly better than no information at all.

I have to admit that I was a strong proponent of expanding the city's cable channel decades ago. We had a cable channel and we weren't using it. The city had a unique opportunity to bring government to the people. Broadcasting official city council meetings, Planning Commission meetings, board meetings was a new idea and frankly not everyone wanted it broadcast in such a public way. The public might actually see the emperor with no clothes on, so to speak. Others embraced the concept and that's where theatrics comes into play. It doesn't matter whether you are a municipal, county or state elected official or whether you are a member of Congress, playing to the camera gives you a license to act and play to the audience. And it is done every day.

So how do we poor minions determine what is real and what is fake? The fact is we don't know. My answer to that is to watch all of it to form my own opinion. The reality is a lot of the public chooses one outlet and takes what it hears from one source for fact and that's how polarization between parties and harsh discourse is created and sustained.

Government needs to see the light of day. We need to see the good, the bad, and the ugly. There are millions of people who love to watch government in action. There are millions of people who watch nothing and pay no attention to what government is doing. I side with turning the lights and cameras on government, even when I know elected officials are just pandering to their base and not demonstrating good public policy for all. Because without TV, elected officials are hiding behind the curtain and when you hide behind the curtain bad things can happen to us minions.

Perfect? No, but it's better than total blackout and ignorance.

No comments:

Post a Comment