C-SPAN’s Lamb Says Web Is News’ Future

Nov 20, 2008  •  Post A Comment

Brian Lamb sees “the handwriting on the wall” for the cable network he founded, C-SPAN, as well as the rest of television news—and it’s called the Internet. “[President-elect] Barack Obama has already started it,” he said, by shifting from a weekly radio address to a weekly video address posted to YouTube.

Brian Lamb

C-SPAN founder Brian Lamb (Photo: Steve Cohn)

Mr. Lamb delivered the James L. Loper Lecture in Public Service Broadcasting Thursday at USC, sponsored by the USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership.
Actually, he admitted, on the topic of the future of TV news, “I have no idea where it’s going. I knew where it was going 30 years ago,” when he started C-SPAN.
The secret to the cable channel’s success, he admitted, is the same as when he started it, “at a time in broadcasting when no one thought cable would work. But I knew if you keep costs down, you have a shot.”
“If you add up every penny I’ve made over the past 30 years, it does not equal one year of salary for a network news anchor, he said. “And I’m overpaid.”
C-SPAN’s success has required the help of hundreds of others, he said, including people in the business world “who never get credit for anything.
The cable network just secured its funding for another nine years, he said.
One change he’s seen: “I’m 67, and my board members are now 45, and all MBAs,” he quipped.
A member of the audience asked Mr. Lamb if he had any suggestions for improving network news. “No,” was the reply.
“That’s not my business,” he elaborated. “Frankly, if you look at what’s happening to their ratings, you just don’t want to be them. Young people just aren’t going there.” Despite the networks’ dominance, he predicted, “they will change when they have to,” to become more agile and nimble.
Mr. Lamb was introduced by Tavis Smiley, who pointed out that he and his fellow Hoosier “really should not be friends,” as Mr. Lamb attended Purdue and Mr. Smiley attended rival Indiana University. Mr. Smiley praised C-SPAN, saying it “stands for telling the truth” and “has allowed us to revel in our freedoms.”
(Editor: Baumann)


  1. No debate for Mr Lamb. You can certainly posit the web as the place for news of all genres. But, no news organization worth it’s salt can afford to operate on web income.
    The next generation of journalists can not make a living posting stories on social networking sites or anywhere else.Broadcasting still is the only aggregator that offers real income for professional journalists.
    C Span serves a tiny audience, and has always been a cable operators best friend. Since it allows them to charge outrageous fees for programming, while claiming civic responsibility because they run C Span and your local news channels.

  2. This may be true way in the future but the problem that exists on the web now is credibility. If folks get on-line news from trusted news source (a network maybe?) it should work out but currently there are just too many hoaxes, non-substantiated reports etc. for anyone to take on-line news very seriously.
    I check on and get my news on-line, quite a bit but only go to the network news sites or trusted names I know and even then I take a more skeptical view than what I see on network TV news.

  3. It’s all unraveling now.
    Nobody of any intelligence can trust 99.9 percent what they read/see/hear in the MSM. (And I say that as a longtime member of it.)
    People working in all kinds of newsrooms today are overwhelmed and/or inexperienced.
    Going forward, the news business will be largely local as folks hunker down into their communities.

  4. The web will be the future of TV news if local newscasts keep reporting too much National and International news. People watch local news to get news from their city and state not news from Iraq or about the National Economy. If you want National and Internationa news you can get it nonstop around the clock on CNN, MSNBC, and FOX News. People will start going to the internet for local news. The internet you can get the local news on your terms. So if local TV newscasts keeps on having National Network Satellite news feeds instead of local reporters people will quit watching the local news and get it on their terms on the web. The less people watch local news the ratings to the news will go down and if the ratings go down local TV stations will have to end up cancelling the newscasts.

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