January 9, 2013

Bill Nemitz: State House drama is made for TV

By Bill Nemitz bnemitz@pressherald.com

(Continued from page 1)

(Before anyone starts grumbling about the cost, be advised that the $200,000 to $300,000 to run the channel as a pilot program this year will include no public funding.)

Still, there's that nagging question: Now that MPBN is building it, will people come?

If C-SPAN is any indication, the answer is yes.

Back in 2009, Hart Research did a survey as part of C-SPAN's 30th anniversary. It found that 40 percent of cable TV viewers nationwide -- 78 million adults -- had watched one of C-SPAN's three channels in the previous six months. (Of those, half considered themselves "regular viewers.")

And here's the truly interesting part: Unlike Fox News Channel's righties and MSNBC's lefties, C-SPAN's viewership spreads evenly across geographic regions, age, gender and political persuasion.

What's more, 85 percent of the C-SPAN viewers considered the network a "valuable resource" because it provided balanced, live coverage that they simply couldn't find anywhere else.

Leary, borrowing from a political science term, calls these people "opinion makers."

"These are people who pay attention to government," he said. "They want to see what's going on and they want to hear it for themselves."

Sometimes, to be sure, what they see and hear will be painfully boring. (To wit: A late-night House roll call on an amendment to a bill that delves deep into the weeds of, say, elver fishing.)

But sometimes it won't. (To wit: Gov. LePage's two unannounced visits to the Appropriations Committee last session, neither of which was caught on camera.)

In other words, no cameras means no action. Live TV, on the other hand, can be a life-changing experience.

"If the governor holds a 45-minute news conference," promised Leary, "we're going to run the whole 45 minutes."

Say no more.

I'm already hooked.


Columnist Bill Nemitz can be contacted at 791-6323 or at:



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