It may not be network television but nonetheless, the news that C-SPAN (Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network) has made some 160,000 hours of programming–every single program aired since 1987–available online is still incredible. Although the cable channel launched in 1979, it wasn’t until 1987 that the Purdue University School of Liberal Arts began archiving its programming. The C-SPAN Video Library is the digital version of those archives.
According to a quote in The New York Times from archives director Robert Browning, programming made before 1987 “sort of went down the drain,” although roughly 10,000 hours exist and will eventually make their way onto the Internet. Read more about the history of the C-SPAN Video Library, which will be officially unveiled on Wednesday, here.
Personally, I find the site’s browse and search feature frustrating. I can’t find any way to browse by date or easily find the oldest videos. I did find this August 25th, 1989 program about the Voyager 2 fly-by of Neptune:
The videos are available for streaming online only and cannot be downloaded. And apparently not all of them can be embedded like the above video. This Book TV talk by Debby Applegate, author of The Most Famous Man in America: The Biography of Henry Ward Beecher, can only be viewed at the website (it’s a wonderful book, by the way). There also appear to be transcripts for many programs. And you can easily purchase a DVD of the program if you so desire.
Wouldn’t it be something if FOX were to put its archives, dating back to April 5th, 1987 (October 9th, 1986 if anyone really wants to see Joan Rivers host The Late Show), online? It’ll never happen, and much of the network’s fare will likely never even be released on DVD, but what a concept. If the political machinations of Capitol Hill are you thing, the C-SPAN Video Library looks to be a wonderful resource.