On Wednesday, House Democrats, led by civil rights leader Representative John Lewis, took to the House floor quite literally to call for action on gun violence prevention measures. However, the American people’s ability to watch their sit-in on the well of the House chamber was limited as the House Republicans shut off the camera that provided video to C-SPAN and news outlets.
C-SPAN initially did not show coverage of the show-in because of the lack of video. This led to hundreds of tweets calling on C-SPAN to turn on the cameras, even though the public access channel could not. Jeremy Art, the digital and social media specialist for C-SPAN, began tweeting accounts to correct the record and alert people that C-SPAN has no control.
C-SPAN itself even tweeted, “C-SPAN has no control over the U.S. House TV cameras.” That tweet was retweeted over 1,600 times and included in the Twitter Moments collection of tweets related to the sit-in.
C-SPAN then turned to Periscope to cover the sit-in. Representatives began broadcasting the sit-in on the live streaming service. Representatives Eric Swalwell and Scott Peters both broadcasted the proceedings so that people could watch. Representative Peters had more than 70,000 viewers while Swalwell had more than 15,000.
C-SPAN began using those feeds, along with video from Representative Beto O’Rourke’s Facebook Live stream, to show coverage. Once the House was back in session, the live streams ended (the House floor has rules against cell phone use) and the cameras came back on. However, the session went back into recess and the live streams resumed. C-SPAN at one point had a split screen showing both the live stream and the love vote tally as the House voted on overriding a presidential veto.
Later in the night, another platform got the spotlight as Represenative Steve Israel was interviewed on CNN via FaceTime so that he could also provide a video feed. Then he was told not to broadcast the floor live on television so he moved into the Democratic cloakroom. Israel then opened the door to continue showing the floor as the CNN personalities in New York joked how Israel is retiring at the end of this term.