We don’t think of them as TV stars, but for two decades California Assembly members have been on live TV via The California Channel every day they’re in session. On Friday, February 4, 2011, The California Channel will celebrate its 20th anniversary by replaying some of the most memorable moments from the Assembly floor.
John Hancock, now in his 18th year as President of The California Channel, has seen moments that were amazing, unique and sometimes uncanny. He remembers a particular instance when several Republican Assembly members began singing The Beatles’ “Revolution” in the middle of a proceeding. Another unusual moment was former Assembly member Diane Martinez’s wedding on the Assembly floor while they were in session.
The California Channel is an independent, non-profit public affairs cable network governed by California’s cable television industry, and modeled after the national CSPAN service. The channel provides Californians with direct access to “gavel-to-gavel” proceedings of the California Legislature, and other forums where public policy is discussed, debated, and decided – all without editing, commentary, or analysis and with a balanced presentation of viewpoints.
“We follow C-SPAN camera rules. We don’t show reactive shots, we show the person speaking, although sometimes it is not pretty, for example when they do things like try to balance gum on the microphone. Many felt that cameras would make a difference in the decorum of the Assembly members, but the members quickly forgot that the cameras were there.”
From the beginning, The California Channel captured everything that happened on the Assembly floor. Hancock received frequent requests for content from the staff of “TV Bloopers and Practical Jokes.” He always declined. “We aren’t in the business of embarrassing the elected officials.” The California Channel Celebrates 20 Years Page 2 of 2
Hancock has powerful memories of one of California’s most well-known political figures, Willie Brown, who served thirty years in the State Assembly including fifteen as Speaker.
“Brown was a visionary who understood the importance of TV as a means to open a window for the public into state government,” said Hancock. “Brown wanted people to understand how issues were debated and laws were made.”
A major change to the way Californian’s view politics came in 1998 when The California Channel began broadcasting legislative hearings over the internet. The addition of this online platform allowed anyone in the world with an Internet connection access to these proceedings. Now, thousands of people each day visit www.calchannel.com for live coverage of state government dealings, or to find archived videos of past ones.
Access to The California Channel has been provided exclusively through cable systems since its start. Cable providers have volunteered over $25 million to fund the operations of the channel to date. Each state legislative house funds its own production expenses. Since 1991, The California Channel has expanded its reach from 1.5 million homes to 5.5 million homes.