Brian Lamb launched C-SPAN in 1979 -- The CEO ensures the network?s unbiased approach

By Bruce Fretts
Updated June 30, 1995 at 04:00 AM EDT

”I am not a wonk,” declares Brian Lamb, C-SPAN CEO. ”Wonks spend their lives on public policy. I’m fascinated by what makes it all work, but I have no great plan for America.”

Lamb did have a great plan when he launched the Cable Satellite Public Affairs Network in 1979: to telecast live coverage of Congress. And to have hosts — including Lamb and other C-SPAN execs — remain objective in discussing issues. A lack of bias might seem odd in the midst of today’s screaming-pundit political coverage, but that’s precisely the point. ”One of the worst things you can do in our business is be like everybody else,” says Lamb, 53. So what sets C-SPAN apart? ”We don’t have personalities.”

He isn’t joking. ”There’s no sense getting carried away with your own importance,” says Lamb, who instructs his hosts to refrain from mentioning their names. C-SPAN’s young and politically active viewers (77 percent are between 18 and 49, and 98 percent voted in 1992) clearly like that asceticism: Ratings have skyrocketed since Newt Gingrich’s ascension to Speaker of the House. C-SPAN’s faceless approach provides fodder for parodists, too (including Saturday Night Live‘s Al Franken). The chairman laughs it off. ”I always liked the one that said I had the personality of a test pattern without the color,” says Lamb, who started out as Indiana’s Dick Clark, hosting Dance Date in the ’60s. ”Most of the audience doesn’t have any idea who I am, and that’s the way I like it.”