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Here again, personal habits of members are a guide to the radio engineer. One man has the trick of folding his arms before he interjects. Another makes a twitch of his shoulder. These small indications are sufficient guide to the technician who will snap in the mike at appropriate volume to catch the witticism on the wing.
With the technicians in the control room sits an announcer of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. He has a microphone of his own and can switch into the broadcast. Part of his job is to identify parliamentarians by their own names. When a member has “the call,” Mr. Speaker acknowledges him as “the honorable member for such-and-such” and at a suitable moment the announcer gently opens his switch to tell the radio audience, “This is Mr. So-and-So."
Although most ministers are familiar to the public by name as well as portfolio, not many private members can be recognized by their constituencies. The naming of speakers by the ABC announcer is a great help to listeners in their appreciation of debates.
A recording of question time in both houses is retransmitted each evening for the benefit of listeners unable to listen to the actuality broadcast in the afternoon.
It has been suggested that a booklet be prepared for listeners, to acquaint them with parliamentary procedure and terms used. It could give a seating plan of both senate and house of representatives. If this is done it will give listeners a vivid picture of their Parliament while they listen to debates.
A better understanding of how laws are made should help Australians to take an even more active interest in their democratic country.
Senator PEPPER. The operation of Government-owned radio stations for this purpose has proven to be a success in New Zealand, which has broadcast its parliamentary proceedings for over 12 years over a 60,000-watt Government station.
I will say, Mr. Chairman, that I had the privilege of discussing this matter personally with the Prime Minister of New Zealand when he was here sometime ago. He told me that it had been regarded as very satisfactory by all parties and by the public, that there was the keenest interest on the part of the public in following the proceedings by radio, and that they wouldn't think of the discontinuance of the system.
This is the strongest station in the dominion of New Zealand. Their experience has shown that broadcasting parliamentary proceedings raised the standards of debate tremendously, improved the conduct of parliamentary proceedings, was widely popular with its citizens and gave them full accounts of the legislation being considered.
I am not going to set forth here the details of the New Zealand setup. Mr. Chairman, I ask that there be inserted in the printed record at this point in the hearings an article entitled "Shall We Broadcast Congress?" by Jack Pollack in Liberty magazine of February 17, 1945, and "Let us Put Congress on the Air" by the same author in Pageant magazine of July 1947, which I inserted in the Congressional Record of June 11, 1947.
The CHAIRMAN. Without objection, the documents are received. (The documents referred to above are as follows:)
(Liberty, February 17, 1945]
(By Jack H. Pollack) The United States Senate was debating the Peace Treaty. It was November 1919.
Bewhiskered Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, rose to speak.
“Will the Senator allow me to interrupt for just a moment?” he asked. “Surely."
Measuring his words, the irreconcilable legislator announced, “There will be no adjournment, if I can help it, until we vote on the treaty again. When we vote on it-be under no misapprehension--it is final."
Would world history have taken a different course if the American people had been properly informed of these proceedings? There is a growing belief that had Americans been able to hear with their own ears how the League of Nations was being butchered, they would have stopped the butchering.
Today Congress once again is grappling with problems of peace. But most Americans must depend on the often incomplete newspaper and radio reports if they want ot know what their elected Representatives are saying and doing. For the first time, many Americans wish they had a direct pipe line to Capitol Hill.
A bill to put Congress on the air was introduced in both chambers of the Seventy-eighth Congress by two liberal legislators: Florida's silver-tongued Claude Pepper in the Senate and Washington's John Coffee in the House of Representatives. It was not acted upon, but it is expected to be reintroduced in the new Congress.
Under the bill, any station or network could send congressional proceedings over the air waves, but none would be required to do so. A station could make a "live" broadcast of Congress in action. Or it could buy a transcript at cost price, since "a complete and continuous" legislative recording would be made by Uncle Sam. Of course, both Senate and House would retain the right to keep off the air any debate they wished.
Opinion is divided on whether to broadcast Congress. Some scoffers insist that nobody would listen. Advocates, on the other hand, argue that such a program would be “popular.” They say people would tune in their Congressmen the way they do baseball games, Frank Sinatra's voice, or Jack Benny's jokes. Weren't millions glued to their radios on election night and during the political conventions?
Congressmen themselves, have mixed feelings about the proposal. Forwardlooking legislators in both parties favor it strongly. But some of their colleagues are terrified at the thought of being put on the air, chiefly because they won't have a chance to amend “for the permanent Record” their inaccurate and sometimes ill-advised extemporaneous remarks. Naturally, a handful of demagogic lawmakers are not overjoyed at the prospect of having constituents hear their inflammatory or asinine oratory. One forthright Senator groaned, “Broadcasting us would make people think we're bigger boobs than we are.
A long prejudice has existed on Capitol Hill against ordinary microphones, let alone broadcasting equipment. Every so often someone suggests that our lawmakers should be made more audible-even to one another. Elderly senators such as Johnson of California and Capper of Kansas speak scarcely above a whisper.
Yet many of the people's choices are opposed to all newfangled talking contraptions. About 15 years ago it was urged that mikes be placed in back of each Senator's desk. This prompted a testy South Carolinian, the late Senator Coleman Blease, to grumble:
"Now they want to put a radio back here, right behind me, so as to broadcast what is going on in the Senate. I do not know anything about radios; I never listened to one of them in my life. I do not know what they might do. They might fill that thing up with gas, some deadly gas, and just about the time the crowd assembled in this Chamber-everybody in control of the United Statessome fellow turn on a machine down here and just gas out the whole business.”
And not many years ago, when John Nance Garner was Speaker of the House a loudspeaker microphone was placed before him. Shortly afterward he was told that a Member wanted to deliver a speech. Forgetting that with the mike the slightest whisper could be heard throughout the chamber, the plain-spoken Texan roared, “Now what in the hell is that sonofabitch going to talk about?” While the chamber rocked with laughter, "Cactus Jack” ordered electricians to "get that damned thing out of here."
However, it was later put back, and today the Speaker not only has an ordinary mike in front of him on the rostrum, but he can use a "breast mike” if he wants to move around. When Members address the House, they come to the front and use a mike. Majority and minority leaders also talk through loudspeakers, as do the clerks. All told, the House now has seven microphones plus an operator controlling voice volume from the gallery. Should it be decided to broadcast House proceedings, half the technical job is already done.
The austere Senate, however, has remained suspicious of speaking devices. In fact, Congress generally has viewed with jaundiced eye any departure from its traditions. As a recent example, a movie screen was set up in the Senate Chamber to show Army films. The purpose was to supplement the Senators' knowledge of many of the subjects they debate. When Senate officials got wind of it, they immediately ordered the screen removed.
Those who advocate the broadcasting of legislative sessions contend that it would improve the make-up of Congress. It would expose the stupidity and unfitness of some legislators and strengthen many an able, hard-working congressman whose words too often reach only the readers of the Congressional Record and the sparsely filled Capitol galleries.
Alert New Zealand has improved the quality of its legislative body since it began airing parliamentary proceedings 9 years ago. The Labor Party complained that it was not getting a square deal in the country's press. M. J. Savage, who later became Prime Minister, asserted, "I would sooner put up with the publication of my remarks over the air than with the reports which I read in the newspapers."
So when the Labor Party came into power in 1936, it immediately began to broadcast legislative sessions. To meet objections of those claiming not to be interested in parliamentary broadcasts, it was arranged for a special government station to carry them. At first only the most important debates were aired. But so enthusiastic were listeners that complete proceedings, including the opening prayer, were soon sent over the air waves.
Today New Zealand's most powerful station, 2YA, a 60,000-watt station in Wellington, broadcasts the lawmakers from 2:30 to 11 p. m., with time out for dinner. Daily newspapers list parliamentary programs with scheduled speakers and topics.
The legislators don't talk directly into a microphone; six mikes are suspended from the ceiling. The debate is lively and extemporaneous because members are not allowed to read speeches while on the air. Most popular listening hours are between 7:30 and 10 p, m.
Seated in a corner "covering” the event is a radio announcer. Whenever a representative rises to speak, the announcer switches on the microphone nearest him to control voice volume. During lengthy debates he whispers the names of the speakers for the benefit of late tuners-in. Committee earings are also broadcast.
The speaker has great authority. Occasionally a representative will try to "grandstand” for the benefit of the home folks at the dial by prolonging debate. But the speaker will speedily stop him. Any time he sees fit-say, for reasons of national security—the speaker can press a button underneath his desk and shut off debate from the air.
After hearing their representatives, New Zealand voters decided to make some changes. Nevertheless, many of the nation's poorest orators continue to be reelected, indicating that New Zealanders can be educated without being entranced. Nor has the novelty of listening to their legislators worn off. Thousands of fans follow their favorite voice, and so popular have the broadcasts become that the opposition party has promised to continue them if it is returned to office. And with it all, New Zealand's legislative tradition-faithfully copied from the British House of Commons-has been zealously maintained.
Although New Zealand is the only country in the world now broadcasting legislative sessions, other nations have experimented with the idea. In 1926, Finland, then a liberal-democratic republic, began to air debate of the 200 members of the Finnish Diet. A similar movement was afoot in Germany during the twenties. Even in imperial Japan, the proceedings of the Japanese Diet were aired in 1925.
In March 1926, the question of broadcasting debates arose in the British Parliament. The Broadcasting Committee urged Prime Minister Baldwin to put Parliament on the air. But Baldwin demurred, as have successive Prime Ministers despire wide-spread British interest and the ease with which it could be accomplished under the Government-owned BBC.
Occasionally a municipal station in the United States will broadcast local legislative sessions. Outstanding was the experience of WNYC, which aired New York City Council proceedings for 2 years (1938–40). A howling success, it made blasé New Yorkers vastly more civic-minded. Menhatten cave dwellers found the broadcasts both educational and entertaining-admitting in a survey that they preferred hearing city council to live or canned music. But Gotham's councilmen whimsically voted themselves off the air.
“I wish they'd go back on, a listener complained. “Broadcasting them made the councilmen work harder, be on their toes and more apt to do the right thing by us." WNYC's manager agreed that the broadcasting “raised the quality of
were more prepared, since & corrected copy or handout could not be given to the press."
And how does the radio industry itself feel about broadcasting our national lawmakers? A large segment of it has been cool to the idea, especially the networks. Many a hard-boiled radioman, while admitting it wouldn't be any problem to wire Congress for broadcasting, insists that Congress would be too high-brow and dull for the average listener. Who, such men ask, wants to hear the long-winded reading of a 35-page appropriation bill? One official insists radio would soon find itself "between congressional pressure on the one hand and audience disinterest on the other.” Another protests that "debate would have to be staged and we would be merely putting on a show instead of attending to the business of Congress.” A leading radio magazine declares that "if a poll were taken, the public would vote for less rather than more congressional speechmaking."
And many broadcasters freely admit that they are not overanxious to surrender hours of lucrative time. Under the Pepper-Coffee bill, stations wouldn't be paid for airing Capitol Hill. Congress on the air would be a public service "sustaining program. Stations couldn't very well stop every 15 minutes for a commercial. Of course, Congress might have its own station, but this probably would be regarded by broadcasting officials as drastic Government encroachment on their ether domain.
Nathan Straus, president of independent WMCA and a long-time champion of broadcasting Congress, recently polled radio officials on the question. Of those who answered, 69.2 percent favored the idea, as against 13.5 percent opposed. However, while Straus sent questionnaires to 875 stations, he received only 133 replies. Of these, 26 stations agreed to carry Congress. None were network giants. Most of them were small stations-250-watters. Ten were affiliated with the Mutual and six with the Blue network.
A Georgia radio executive believes the program would result in sending more capable people to Capitol Hill. The owner of a Cleveland station protests, “There's no valid reason why Congress, with nothing to hide, should attempt to block this method of bringing the public more complete knowledge.'
Meantime, while waiting for Congress to make up its mind, Straus has done what he considers the next best thing. Each Sunday, between 3:30 and 4 p. m., WMCA now broadcasts a Halls of Congress program in which professional actors portray Washington lawmakers in dramatizations of texts taken from the Congressional Record of the week.
Rural folks are among the most spirited supporters of the proposal. At its latest convention, the Farmers Union strongly urged putting Congress on the air. Paul Sifton, the union's Washington representative, has been one of the most vocal champions of the idea. Small-town editors, lacking access to full press wires, admit that it would benefit them greatly.
Other advocates include the A. F. of L. and CIO locals, Southern Methodist Churchwomen, the Writers War Board, and the Union for Democratic Action. Much of the support stems from the far West and northernmost New England.
Objections, aside from those already mentioned are many and varied. A common complaint is that Congress would lose its dignity by being open to public inspection. Since the Senate and House are in session simultaneously, which should be broadcast? Wouldn't the daytime audiences be limited to women? Since it isn't possible to broadcast all debate, wouldn't whatever was broadcast be false and misleading? What good would it do to broadcast floor proceedings when the real work is done in committees? Will Congressmen still enjoy "congressional immunity” if their remarks go over the air?
Other critics of congressional broadcasts have been more flippant. One columnist thinks the program should include a House vocalist warbling: When the Sol Bloom is on the Rose in the good old Jessie Sumner Time. The Washington Post slyly suggests Two Chambers Hath the Heart as a congressional theme song, while Time magazine quotes Congressmen as finding the whole idea "nightmarish.”
Proponents of the plan counter all objections with a potent argument. Today, they say, when populat government has collapsed in so many nations, the greater citizenship participation resulting from the broadcasting of legislative sessions would serve to strengthen our democracy. People today, they insist, are Congress-conscious. They are taking the actions of their legislators more seriously, as indicated by their rejection of isolationists in the last election.
These men admit there are operational problems, but insist they can be met. They point to the popularity of network forum programs as evidence that Americans are hungry for scrappy discussions. And they feel that listeners will prefer the oral frailities of their public servants -all the "ers" and the "ahs" and the “hmms” -to the stock streamlined speeches.
Since the expense is not prohibitive, congressional broadcasting champions propose to give the idea a trial and then measure audience interest. Senator Pepper warns, "If we don't broadcast our proceedings and keep step with radio, people are going to begin asking whether we're faraid to let them hear what we're saying. After all, it's their business we're transacting.”
In the days to come, Congress will be debating questions touching every American's life: Postwar jobs, social security, taxes, low-cost medical care, compulsory military training, etc. Advocates emphasize that were Congress on the air, American democracy could prove that it is possible for a government to grow huge and complex and yet remain close to its people.
But the most overpowering argument suggested is that broadcasting Congress would give millions of Americans front-line seats in the making of the coming peace. All-outers for Congress on the air hold that radio can render no greater service than this.
BROADCASTING OF PROCEEDINGS OF CONGRESS Extension of remarks of Hon. Claude Pepper of Florida in the Senate of the
United States, Wednesday, June 11 (legislative day of Monday, April 21), 1947
Mr. PEPPER. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to have printed in the Appendix of the Record an article entitled “Let Us Put Congress on the Air," by Jack H. Pollack, published in Pageant magazine of July 1947.
(There being no objection, the article was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows:)
LET'S PUT CONGRESS ON THE AIR
(By Jack H. Pollack) You sit in your favorite easy chair, flip your radio dial. The announcer says: "We now bring you the United States Senate.”
Immediately you are transported to the plush-carpeted upper Chamber. There, stormy debate is taking place on whether your rent should be raised or your income tax lowered, how much sugar should be allowed on your table or what size army your country needs. For as long as debate goes on-or as long as you care to listen-you have a ringside seat at history, your history, being made.
This is no far-fetched idea. A bill has been introduced that would put Congress' entire proceedings on the air. If this measure becomes law, television will bring you an eyeful as well as an earful. You may see half-empty chambers, legislators snoozing over their newspapers, taking a pinch of snuff, utilizing brass spittoons, sometimes even coming to blows.
There is no question that you and every other citizen should know more about what goes on among your elected representatives. One poll shows that only one voter in seven ever writes or wires his Congressman, and that half of us do not even know our Congressmen's names. Broadcasting proceedings on Capitol Hill would change that almost overnight. And the behavior of our lawmakers could be expected to improve noticeably.
Adolph Sabath, of Illinois, whose 41 years of service make him the dean of the House of Representatives, puts it this way: "Broadcasting Congress would raise the level of debate. Members would restrain themselves from reckless remarks and not go off half-cocked.” And Mr. Bilbo, of Mississippi, expresses his own feeling: "If people back home heard everything we said in the Senate, I wouldn't get reelected-and neither would some of my high-falutin' colleagues."
Were Congress on the air, you probably would no longer hear Nebraska's Kenneth Wherry try to slug Oregon's Wayne Morse on the Senate floor. Pennsylvania's Representative Robert Rich might think twice before offering his solution for handling the atomic bomb: “Hide it so no one could get it.” If Massachusetts housewives were listening to him, Representative Charles Gifford might pause before charging that women Congressmen are “dangerous.”
In a recent exchange on the Senate floor between Brewster, of Maine, and Tobey, of New Hampshire, Brewster irritably declined to continue because it would be like arguing the right of way with a skunk.” This unparliamentary remark does not appear in the permanent Congressional Record because, on reflection, Brewster deleted it. Had he been facing a microphone at the time, however, chances are he never would have made it.