Brian Lamb, the visionary founder of the nonprofit cable network C-SPAN, announced that he is stepping down as CEO after 33 years and turning the daily operation over to two of his most trusted lieutenants, Rob Kennedy and Susan Swain.
Lamb, 70, came up with the idea for creating C-SPAN while covering the communications industry for the cable industry trade magazine Cablevison, envisioning the network as a public service at a time when the cable-TV industry was just starting. It launched in March of 1979. It would be more than a year later that Ted Turner would launch CNN, which made C-SPAN, in some respects, the first cable news channel, though it lacked the more traditional news format of the major networks.
It was this non-traditional format, however, that was the key to C-SPAN’s success. C-SPAN’s main focus was to cover the proceedings in the House and Senate, along with other political events being held in Washington. They also added additional programming, such as journalist roundtables and book events. The beauty for viewers was that the events were being shown without editorial commentary, allowing them to form their own opinions instead of being swayed by anchors and reporters.
And the network is commercial-free. It is a non-profit corporation that is funded by the subscribers who receive it through their cable company.
As visionary as Lamb was in 1978, I don’t think even he could have imagined that C-SPAN would grow to the behemoth it is today with three channels, a $60 million annual budget and 275 employees.
Brian Lamb revolutionized cable television by cracking open the doors of Congress in Washington, D.C. for the public to see, and for that we should all be grateful.