Monday, April 7, 2008

Get a Life - Redux

Many people responded to my April 2 posting. Several of my former colleagues pointed out that I was wrong to castigate all of Congress regarding webcasting hearings.

They were right. I stand corrected and chastened.

Congress has, in fact, moved into the 21st Century. This move is not universal, but it seems that the Democrats have been more aggressive than the Republicans in making their hearings and meetings accessible on the web.

That said; the results are still a mixed bag.

For once the Senate is ahead of the House on moving with the times. All but four committees have both live webcasts and archived webcasts. The stragglers are:

Armed Services – no webcasting
Energy & Natural Resource – live webcasts, no archive
Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs – live webcasts, no archive
Small Business & Entrepreneurship – live webcast and archive of only most recent hearing

The House is a really mixed bag. Most Committees offer both live and archived webcasts. Here are the stragglers:

Appropriations – many subcommittees still offer no webcasts
Education and Labor – no webcasts, just the use of “e-hearings” for remote witnesses
Financial Services – live webcasts, no archive
Homeland Security – live webcasts, only audio archive
Natural Resources – live webcasts, no archive
Oversight & Government Reform – none
Rules – none
Small Business – highlights posted on “You Tube”
Ways & Means – live webcasts, no archive

It is surprising that, of all committees, Oversight would still be in the dark ages. Given Chairman Waxman’s zeal for oversight, you would think he would want his efforts showcased through every possible technology.

It is my sincere hope that this trend to the web continues and that the stragglers catch-up.

The true final frontier for webcasting is the Executive Branch. Every day each agency and department holds hundreds of hearings, briefings, meetings, and judicial proceedings (before administrative law judges). Except for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, webcasting or even adequate public notice and access to these activities is fairly rare. Maybe the public will start demanding that all of our public officials open their doors and let us in.

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