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I have one which I will ask you to answer, not now, but for the record, as to the aspects of congressional activities you feel are not covered as well by television news as they should be, and what areas you think they ought to be, other than on the floor day and night, but other than that, what else should be covered, and we have some others, they are for information, and we would appreciate, gentlemen, if you all would take time to consider them.
I realize it means you might have to call yourselves together and go over them, and have somebody take them down, we hate to impose on you to that extent since there are four of you.
Representative DELLENBACK. Mr. Chairman, may we ask unanimous consent that those questions and answers be made a part of our committee record ?
Representative BROOKS. They will be.
Gentlemen, I want to thank you, and say on my own behalf, to ask you to think if you were an individual Member of Congress trying to represent a constituency in the West or anywhere, how would you go about trying to get some coverage, trying to think about the average Member, what his problem is.
You have the background, and you know how to handle your business, and maybe you could pass on some of that expertise and experience in a manner that would be helpful, to the average Member of Congress, and how they could do a better job in getting their information across, because each of them feels it is significant. If you would like a list of those items that you feel are particularly pertinent, your space problem, clearance problems, committee arrangements, accessibility, if you would think of those from a technical point of view what could be done, and you all know what could be done, and there can possibly be some adjustments made in the committee rules.
Congress is not fixed and ironclad in its position on this subject, and I think they are quite willing if you in the media will come up with logical, feasible, and workable suggestions. I think you will find Congress receptive to them, and we appreciate your being here today, and I particularly enjoy the association, and I just wish that we had more coverage in my district.
Without any further ado, the committee will stand in recess until March 7, for continuation of this hearing on the House side of the Capitol.
(Whereupon, the committee was recessed at 3:45 p.m.]
CONGRESS AND MASS COMMUNICATIONS
THURSDAY, MARCH 7, 1974
U.S. SENATE AND HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
Washington, D.C. The committee met, pursuant to notice, at 10 a.m., in the Sam Rayburn Building, Hon. Lee Metcalf, chairman, presiding.
Present: Senator Metcalf, and Representatives Cleveland and Dellenback.
Chairman METCALF. The Joint Committee on Congressional Operations will be in order.
This morning, as we continue to look into the relationship between Congress and the mass media, we will resume hearing testimony from spokesmen for both commercial and public television.
During the first days of the Joint Committee's hearings 2 weeks ago we heard from the presidents of the Columbia Broadcasting System and the American Broadcasting Co., along with the Washington bureau chiefs of four major networks. Their willingness to widen their coverage of Congressif permitted to do so—was documented during the 2d day of the hearings.
Let me once again emphasize this point: None of us are advocating any kind of slick public relations program for Congress. We are aware that Congress has its shortcomings.
We are not interested in managing the news, Madison Avenue imagemaking, or in packaging the Congress for a hard-sell campaign through the media.
But it is clear that we must now consider methods, consistent with this institution's lawmaking function, which could permit Congress to bring more meaningful information more directly to more of our citizens. Certainly, we must at this time carefully examine any customs or other aspects of our operation that might discourage the news media or the public generally from seeing—and understanding—the activities and role of the National Legislature.
Four of my colleagues in the Senate and four Members of the House of Representatives testified on the opening day of these hearings in varying degrees of support for the proposition that congressional committee hearings and floor debates should be more readily accessible to the broadcast media and other members of the press.
Additional statements from leaders in both the House and the Senate are expected during the course of these hearings and I am delighted to see that my good friend and able colleague, Senator Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia—the distinguished assistant Senate majority leader-is to be our leadoff witness this morning.
Later this morning, following the testimony from television and radio executives, we will hear from members of the Connecticut General Assembly and the Florida State Legislature along with executive from the television stations which have been providing coverage of the legislative process in these two States.
We should give all the media the fullest possible opportunity to cover and report on congressional activity.
If I were practicing law today, I might bring an action under the first amendment to say that some of the media are denied access to the Congress or to committee hearings. Neither this committee nor any of its members are advocating personal television appearances. But we are concerned about the fact that, 535 of us—Congress as an institu: tion-do not have the same access to television the President has.
We are thinking about Congress as an institution, and how best its activities can be communicated to the American people. I have every confidence that some of the very able, brilliant men who are in radio and television would do the same job of explaining Congress as an institution through that media that the newspaper periodical press continues to do.
Our first witness this morning is a very good friend of mine. He and I came to Congress together many years ago, more than we like to think about now.
He is assistant majority leader. He has been active in reforming procedures in the Senate, and he is one of the most diligent, hard-working Members of the Senate. He has given thoughtful consideration to the matters we are dealing with in these hearings.
Senator Byrd, we are honored to have you with us today. We want to have the benefit of your views on this subject and anything else you want to talk about this morning. It is a great privilege to have you over here.
I think, Senator Byrd, you should know that our meeting in the Rayburn House Office Building is a precedent. Instead of just insisting that the Joint Committee hold hearings in little rooms in the Capitol Building, we are moving back and forth between the Senate and the House Office Buildings, and accommodating everyone on each side.
Do you have anything, Mr. Cleveland ?
STATEMENT OF HON. ROBERT C. BYRD, A U.S. SENATOR FROM
THE STATE OF WEST VIRGINIA Senator ROBERT C. BYRD. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, members of the committee.
I am very grateful for the opportunity to appear at these hearings on Congress and Mass Communications, and I commend the Joint Committee on Congressional Operations for examining the working relationship between the legislative branch and the media.
According to a recent Louis Harris survey, only 21 percent of the American people hold a favorable attitude toward Congress. I am certain that all members of this committee were as disturbed as I was by the results of that poll-disturbed and frustrated !
The fact is that the 93d Congress is capably and conscientiously 'presenting the people of America. For its part, the Senate, during e first session of this Congress, completed what can only be described a year of achievement. It passed 723 measures, 196 of which became law; confirmed 66,817 ominations; approved 22 treaties; and conducted 594 record votes. 'he litany of legislation meaningful, constructive legislation-is too ing to read here. I mention the statistics merely to underscore the ccomplishments of Congress, and to explain why so many Members eel frustrated when a poll shows that only 21 percent of the people ave a favorable impression of the way we are carrying out our duties.
May I say at this point that polls do differ depending on the quesions asked.
A recent University of Michigan poll showed that 45 percent of ersons polled felt that the Congress, of all institutions of Governlent, had a 45-percent rating with respect to institutions of Governnent that had done the best job during the past 2 years.
Forty-five percent held that Congress had done the best job. Twentyive percent felt that the President had done the best job. Twenty-six Jercent felt that the Supreme Court had done the best job.
Now, this represents for the Congress an increase of 22 percent, I setter say that differently, the 45 percent figure is up 22 points from a imilar poll conducted by the University of Michigan the previous rear.
The 25-percent figure for the President is down 12 points from what t was the previous year, so I think we ought to not concentrate on one poll, but we ought to study the various polls in this regard for an attempt to assess by way of the polls what the accurate standing of the Congress is in the minds of the American people, but whatever poll we consider, I am still frustrated.
I feel that most Members of Congress have a reason to be frustrated at a rating which does not truly reflect the good performance and the realistic performance of the Congress with respect to its carrying out its responsibilities to the people.
The natural question is: Why such a low rating for a Congress that is performing so ably?
There are a number of answers to that question, of course. For one thing, we are living in a time of divided government. I hope I never live to see another such era of divided government. Some people believe that it is good to have divided government, and there may be arguments pro and con, but I think that this accentuates the differences between the executive and the legislative branches, the number of Congressmen who share the party affiliation of the administration. This would be true under any divided government, whether the Democratic party is involved, or the Republicans, or one is in charge of the executive branch and the other in charge of the Congress, or vice versa, the minority will naturally feel the need on occasion to defend the executive branch, especially when the executive branch is under the control of the minority party.
I do not say this in the way of adverse criticism of the present minority party. I think the same would be true if we Democrats were in the minority in the Congress and if we had leadership in the White