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Historical Highlights

The Resolution to Permit Live Radio Broadcasts of House Proceedings

September 19, 1944
The Resolution to Permit Live Radio Broadcasts of House Proceedings 79th Congress Pictorial Directory A lawyer by trade, John Coffee of Washington State served five terms in the House.
On this date, Representative John Coffee of Washington introduced H.J. Res. 311, which called for live radio broadcasts of House proceedings. Coffee's measure followed on the heels of a nearly identical bill introduced by Senator Claude Pepper of Florida. Both resolutions suggested that because of “mounting public interest throughout the country” in legislation pending before Congress—social measures and postwar foreign and economic policies—that the institution was obligated to make its deliberations widely accessible to the public. Some observers worried that broadcasting events on the floor would change the culture of the House, and pundits noted that the arcane proceedings would quickly bore the American people. Coffee insisted, however, “that the people are entitled to know what is going on in Congress, without editorial deletion and without expurgation at the hands of radio or other commentators. Why should not the people judge for themselves?” The Joint Committee on the Organization of Congress held hearings on the subject. But provisions for permanent broadcasting of all House Floor debates were not included in the sweeping reform package produced by the committee and passed by the House as the Legislative Reform Act of 1946. Live radio and television broadcasts of House Floor proceedings remained unavailable until the late 1970s.

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