Tech by VICE

We Replaced C-SPAN with Periscope and I Can’t Even

Paul Ryan shut off the C-Span cameras and C-Span has replaced it with a mix of Periscope and Facebook Live. Seriously.

by Sarah Jeong
Jun 22 2016, 7:59pm

There's a sit-in right now in the House of Representatives over gun control. Republicans blocked a vote over the "no fly, no buy" bill (preventing terror suspects on the no-fly list from buying guns) and Democrats are up in arms about it.

This is a difficult topic. Forty-nine people were killed at a gay nightclub in Orlando last week, the biggest mass shooting in recent memory. The death toll from gun violence is stacking up. At the same time, the no-fly list is a circumvention of due process—denying Second Amendment rights to the occupants of a semi-arbitrary and probably-racist blacklist is kind of problematic?

But let's not talk about this extremely thorny and heart-breaking crisis in American politics today.

Let's talk about this Periscope shit.

What does a sit-in achieve? News headlines. Even if a vote is prevented procedurally, a sit-in appeals to the court of public opinion and keeps the debate alive. Small wonder then that the Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, ordered C-SPAN cameras to be shut off.

That's when things got uncomfortably futuristic.

Rep. Scott Peters (D-CA) began to broadcast the sit-in on Periscope, the livestreaming app acquired by Twitter in 2015. And C-SPAN—created by the cable industry in 1978 as a public service, and currently operated by the National Cable Satellite Corporation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit—replaced their cameras with a shitty, shaky vertical stream filmed by a Congressman.

1. Vertical video? Really?

2. We replaced C-SPAN with a smartphone app.

3. This is the most undignified future.

4. Is this what the future of public transparency is? The iPhones in Congresspersons' pockets, every politician their own citizen journalist, holding their phones up (vertically) like they're in a Justin Bieber concert?

5. Really? Really?

6. Around 3:25 PM EDT, C-SPAN switched to a Facebook Live from Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-TX).

7. That's right, folks. The Periscope/Facebook Live war is playing out on the floor of the House of Representatives.

8. Look, I guess C-SPAN isn't publicly funded. (Learn something new every day!) But, you guys. Competing Silicon Valley apps fueled by venture capital are now what counts as government transparency and I don't know how to feel about this.

9. At 3:46 PM EDT, Rep. O'Rourke got a text message and everyone watching heard that alert.

10. I just.

11. What.

12. (The video keeps freezing.)

13. What is this future.