Why You Should Get Your Political Coverage From C-SPAN

Illustration for article titled Why You Should Get Your Political Coverage From C-SPAN

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The lowest-ranking network in your regular TV rotation is also the only place I’d ever watch a presidential debate. And I’ve seen a lot of them—I’ve watched literally every presidential debate, both primaries and general elections, from around 2012 to present day. My secret? A deep masochism and inability to look away from the disfunction of our country’s political process. But also, C-SPAN.

What is C-SPAN anyway?

C-SPAN is a nonprofit public service television network started in 1979 and essentially funded by cable and satellite services. That’s right—a bunch of them banded together to offer unbiased, ad-free news coverage to almost every home in the United States for the betterment of public education and insight. It covers both politics and nonpolitical topics (historical programming, book coverage, author interviews), and has expanded to C-SPAN 2, C-SPAN 3, radio broadcasts, and live internet streams. It operates completely independently:The government has no bearing on what it covers, and it never solicits donations. It’s basically a wonder that is generally taken for granted. A fucking gift.

Is C-SPAN boring?

Yes. Holy shit, yes. But if you spend a lot of time online, you might use an ad-blocker to keep all the pop-ups and trackers from interrupting your scroll through the internet. Similarly, C-SPAN is the ad-blocker of cable news, hiding in plain sight under a veil of sheer boredom. I think it’s fair to say that C-SPAN is the most boring network on your TV, including those channels that just scroll through the cable broadcast schedule.

Comedian Larry Wilmore said it best at the 2016 White House Correspondence Dinner, back when that type of event still existed:“C-SPAN is the number one network among people who died watching TV and no one’s found them yet,” he quipped. “Glad I’m not on your rival network, ‘no-input HDMI-1.’” The joke was a direct attack on me, because I know it’s true, but I still hate when people bash my beloved. (You can find Wilmore’s joke—where else—on C-SPAN here, proving that while the network is incredibly boring, it’s also completely self-aware.)

Should I watch the final presidential debate?

No. I don’t recommend it, and there are plenty of other, better things to watch that will take your mind off a decision you undoubtedly made long ago. We even made a list of them, a full 20 alternatives to watching the presidential debate. All of them are good choices, and any is a better options than watching what will transpire from 9 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. in Tennessee tonight. Others carry this cross so you don’t have to—unless you choose to, in which case you should watch it on C-SPAN.

Why should I watch C-SPAN over other news networks?

Nobody is watching C-SPAN but me and a few other true believers. But what lies beneath the boredom is a simple truth for those who want their information minus the spectacle and punditry of cable news: C-SPAN is “boring” the same way your Google search might be “boring” if you removed the endless hoard of advertisers vying for your attention.

So when it comes to the presidential debate—an anxiety-inducing shitshow that has little function but to provoke outrage—the last thing I need are the added spectacles of network pundits, sports-like chyrons, flashy animations, and commercials. I want dry, even-toned, non-reactionary boredom to ease my jangled nerves and give me the strength to press on. On C-SPAN, nothing can phase me. I’m unflappable. I will survive.

How can I watch a presidential debate on C-SPAN?

Like everything C-SPAN related, it’s so easy that anyone can find what they’re looking for without much fuss. Search out your local C-SPAN channel on your cable provider or go to C-SPAN’s website. You can also search an archive of past debates (you won’t, though) and find plenty of other offerings that can cure insomnia.

Tonight’s event will be hosted at Nashville’s Belmont University, with NBC News White House correspondent Kristen Welker moderating. C-SPAN’s coverage begins at 8 p.m. ET; before the action gets going, the coverage often begins with a panned-out camera staring into an auditorium of people doing literally nothing. The debate is scheduled for 9 p.m. ET.