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House of Reps Enters the Live Video Streaming Age

BY Nancy Scola | Tuesday, April 27 2010

Credit: HouseLive.gov

The U.S. House of Representatives took an exciting stretched-leg step in the direction of modernity and open government yesterday, with the launch of HouseLive.gov -- a live streaming online video feed of what's happening on the House floor, as long as, of course, something's happening on the House floor.

Online video from the House is something that open government advocates, including the Open House Project, have long pushed for. C-SPAN has tapped into the House's video system to stream floor proceedings since the Watergate era. But that this is an in-house embrace of transparency by the Clerk of the House -- an institutional authority -- and somewhat independent of the whims of elected members of Congress has some openness advocates particularly encouraged.

As a live stream of proceedings, House Live is rather like the Obama White House's White House Live innovation. But the Office of the Clerk of the House has done the executive branch one better by making video archives back to January 2009 searchable and downloadable as public domain video clips -- though for for "any political purpose or in any commercial advertisement," according to the Clerk. More than that, anyone can now set up a custom feed based on a search. "If you’re an RSS user," reads a release on the Gavel, Speaker Pelosi's blog, "you can also subscribe to the audio or video feeds or create your own RSS feed by keyword." (Not that this is a competition, but the White House does the House one better by offering streams from a variety of events.)

That said, HouseLive.gov has some quirks. The interface is tricky to navigate, particularly where the video stream links up to the text transcript. But hey, it's in beta.

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