Brian Lamb, our School’s namesake, is the founder of C-SPAN Networks. On March 19, 1979, with just four employees, C-SPAN transmitted a live feed from the U.S. House of Representatives, the first day the House allowed television coverage. Predating CNN and ESPN, C-SPAN offers long-form programming of events in their entirety. Its format also allows viewers to question their elected officials on its over 1,100 hours of call-in programs each year.
Brian Lamb served as C-SPAN’s CEO from 1979 through 2012 and continues to serve as its executive chairman. Today, C-SPAN has 285 employees and annually airs 8,000 hours of original programming on three networks, operates a Washington, D.C. FM-radio station, which airs nationally on satellite radio, and hosts the C-SPAN.org website where all its programming, back to 1987, can be watched for free, giving Americans unprecedented access to U.S. public affairs, Congress and more.
Life Before C-SPAN
Brian Lamb was born and raised in Lafayette, Indiana and attended Purdue University. It was at Purdue where Mr. Lamb got his first taste of television when he began hosting Dance Date, a live music program targeted for teens. After graduating from Purdue in 1963 with a degree in Speech, he served as an officer in the United States Navy for four years; for two of those years, he served in the Pentagon communications office during the Vietnam War, while also serving as a White House social aide to President Lyndon Johnson.
Prior to launching C-SPAN, Mr. Lamb worked as a White House Office of Telecommunications Policy staffer, a congressional press secretary and was the Washington Bureau Chief for Cablevision magazine.
Soon after the launch of C-SPAN in 1979, Brian Lamb and his team began to develop original programming for the network to educate the American people on public affairs and public policy.
Along with live feeds on the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, C-SPAN added congressional hearings, one-on-one interviews with members of Congress, speeches from the National Press Club, call-in shows with C-SPAN viewers, and political campaign coverage.
C-SPAN launched Booknotes in April 1989 with Brian Lamb as host. The Sunday evening show featured non-fiction books and their authors being interviewed for one uninterrupted hour. Brian Lamb hosted 800 episodes of Booknotes until the series ended in December 2004, the longest-running author interview program in U.S. broadcast history. In 2005, its success prompted C-SPAN to create BOOKTV, a weekend programming block featuring 48 hours of nonfiction book coverage.
After Booknotes ended, Lamb began hosting a new program titled Q&A, which features interviews with prominent figures in politics, technology, education, and media. It airs every Sunday evening at 8 p.m. EST on C-SPAN.
Brian Lamb is a pioneer of cable television, who has been honored with both the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the National Humanities Medal.
His passion and the mission of the network he founded is to allow the American public to see events in their entirety, without editing or commentary, and through its call-in programs to permit ordinary citizens access to their elected officials, and to employ television production values that convey the business of government rather than detract from it.
It is for these reasons and more that we are proud to be called the Brian Lamb School of Communication at Purdue University.