Mobile phone app replaces Congressional TV as Democrats stage sit-in

C-SPAN rebroadcasts Periscope feed after cameras turned off

In an extraordinary intervention of app technology into modern democracy, TV station C-SPAN chose to rebroadcast streaming video from a mobile phone inside Congress during a representatives held protest after its cameras were turned off.

Democratic politicians in the House of Representatives decided to stage a sit-in on Wednesday after requests to hold a vote on gun control measures were repeatedly denied by the Republican-controlled chamber.

The sit-in was not broadcast, however, because speaker Paul Ryan had called a recess.

When the chamber reopened, Democrats continued blocking discussion, prompting Ryan to call a second recess. Again, the cameras – which provide a live feed of events in Congress – turned off, plunging station C-SPAN into the dark. The microphones were also turned off.

The politicians refused to end their protest and started doing what politicians do best – giving long speeches – even without an audience.

That soon changed, however, when Representative Scott Peters (D-OH) whipped out his mobile phone and used the Periscope app to live-stream events. Word soon spread on social media and thousands started following the feed. Other Representatives soon joined in, using their phones to provide a live broadcast, including Congressman Beto O'Rourke (D-TX) who started using Facebook's new video service.

Things really took off, however, when C-SPAN made the decision to rebroadcast the phone feeds live on their TV channels with a ticker at the bottom noting: "Alert: Cameras in Chamber controlled by house."

The footage is grainy although the audio is surprisingly good. And on occasion the feed has frozen, prompting C-SPAN to cut back to its studio and a newscaster who has repeatedly explained the situation to viewers before turning back to Periscope and Facebook Live feeds when they start up again.

The sit-in started at approximately 11:30AM Eastern Time and is continuing as of 5:30PM, six hours later, built around the phrase and hashtag #NoBillNoBreak. You can follow live online.

A similar filibustering effort was carried out earlier this week, when Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) and fellow Democrats held the floor for 15 hours when they were refused a gun control vote.

The Republican-controlled Senate eventually gave way and allowed four votes to go ahead. All four failed. ®

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