Congress broadcaster turns to Periscope to show gun control sit-in

Footage showed lawmakers sitting on the carpet or standing, some taking turns speaking at the lectern where the microphone was turned off

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The public broadcaster that covers the US Congress aired live social media footage Wednesday to cover a dramatic sit-in over gun control, beaming out a lawmaker’s private Periscope feed in a daring breach of political protocol.

Democrats angry about inaction in the aftermath of last weekend’s Orlando massacre staged a takeover of sorts in the Republican-led House, just as the presiding officer announced the chamber was going into a recess.

Following established protocol on how it covers House proceedings, the C-SPAN cameras went dark for the recess, even as several dozen Democrats including civil rights icon John Lewis chanted “No bill, no break!” and sat down on the carpet.

But in the interest of recording history, the broadcaster came up with an ingenious workaround.

“C-SPAN has no control over the US House TV cameras. Now showing a @periscopeco from @RepScottPeters,” the public broadcaster posted on Twitter.

Periscope is a mobile application that allows a user to stream live video to anyone who wishes to tune in. C-SPAN tuned in, and broadcast the feed.

It ran for about half an hour before it too cut off at 3:17 pm. Minutes later, C-SPAN was back to live coverage, using live video streaming on Facebook by congressman Beto O’Rourke.

C-SPAN and House officials described the move as unique in the 227-year history of the House of Representatives.

“This is the first time we’ve used Periscope to show live coverage of the House floor,” C-SPAN communications director Howard Mortman told AFP.

“We have a mission, and our mission is to cover Congress,” he said.

“We’re a non-profit public service organization. We’ll do what we can to illustrate what happens in Congress.”

The grainy footage showed lawmakers sitting on the carpet or standing, some taking turns speaking at the lectern where the microphone was turned off, and with lights turned down.

“If the Republican cowards that run this chamber actually turned the microphones on we could all be heard a little bit louder,” Debbie Wasserman-Schultz was seen saying in the live footage.

Lawmakers-turned-videographers Peters and Beto may have been violating procedure.

According to the official House rules, electronic devices are permitted on the House floor so long as they do not “impair decorum.”

“Although no device may be used for still photography or for audio or video recording,” the rules state.

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