Claims of bias follow C-SPAN's refusal to cover Judiciary panel field hearings

 April 16, 2023

Though it has long benefitted from its reputation as an unbiased presenter of public affairs programming and governmental proceedings, C-SPAN is under fire for making decisions that effectively take a key Judiciary Committee hearing related to the conduct of Manhattan D.A. Alvin Bragg off the air, as Fox News reports.

The network's decision follows a similar one from February in which no coverage was afforded a field hearing held by the panel in Yuma, Arizona, which focused on border security failures.

Coverage denied

On Monday, the GOP-led Judiciary panel will be holding a hearing in New York City with the stated theme of “Victims of Violent Crime in Manhattan” meant to “examine how Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg's pro-crime, anti-victim policies have led to an increase in violent crime and a dangerous community for New York City residents.”

The proceedings will undoubtedly be of significant interest to many due to Bragg's role in prosecuting former President Donald Trump over the Stormy Daniels hush money matter.

Despite the high-profile nature of the topics to be covered on Monday, C-SPAN assignment desk manager Jon Kelley said in an email to committee staffers last week, “I wanted to reach out to you as soon as I could to let you know that we won't be able [to] send a crew to cover the House Judiciary field hearing on Victims of Violent Crime in Manhattan on Monday.”

“I know it is making a lot of news and we did look at possible coverage, but we just don't have the resources at this time,” Kelley added.

An incredulous Judiciary staff member replied, “Are you all serious? It's the biggest hearing in Congress that I can think of.”

Pattern emerges

The refusal to cover Monday's hearing echoes for many Republicans the network's decision to skip the aforementioned Yuma field hearing, which C-SPAN congressional editor Robb Harleston said at the time was problematic due to the absence of any Democrats – who were informed of the event well in advance but were determined not to attend.

In response to that move, a Judiciary staffer said, “That's a very disappointing decision. The Democratic members were invited, and it's still unknown of they will participate. We hope they do. To be clearL This is an official U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary hearing. The Committee has jurisdiction over immigration and border policies, and it should be worthy of C-SPAN's coverage.”

Harleston replied, “I appreciate your disappointment. If there's any concrete decisions regarding Democratic involvement, we might reconsider. However, while we understand the gravity of this issue, without a balanced member representation, it's been decided we're going to pass on coverage.”

That answer prompted the staffer to point to coverage C-SPAN afforded a Los Angeles field hearing from 2019 in which only Democrats were in attendance. “Strange, one-party involvement didn't seem to be an issue when Democrats were in charge of the House.”

Mission failure

As Fox News noted, a source familiar with the situation stated, “C-SPAN has failed to fulfill its mission to provide 'a balanced presentation of points of view' with its continued refusal to cover Republican-led House Judiciary Committee field hearings.”

“Given they covered Democrat-run field hearings in the past, C-SPAN's political bias is very clear and underscores a larger systemic problem with their editorial decisions,” the source added.

As another source close to that matter told, “If C-SPAN is worried about 'cord-cutting,' maybe they should be more fair in their editorial decisions and cover hearings that people actually care about instead of the liberal content they currently produce.” Given that the network is funded entirely by revenue from cable and satellite affiliates, that is indeed advice that ought to be well-taken.

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