Home Facebook to Live Stream US Congress Opening Tomorrow

Facebook to Live Stream US Congress Opening Tomorrow

The 112th US Congress, which will run for the next two years, will kick-off with swearing in tomorrow at noon EST. For the first time in history, the first day at least will be live broadcast on giant social network Facebook, according to an announcement CNN says Republican leadership will make today. It’s big news, but it also raises interesting questions about media and politics in the current era.

Specifically, the live streaming will be done on the Republicans’ page for PledgeToAmerica. When the Obama inauguration was live broadcast in 2009, the video appeared on CNN.com but was powered by Facebook Connect, which allowed viewers to see comments posted exclusively by their Facebook friends, if they so chose. CNN said at the time that 5.3 million video streams of that event were delivered.

Will the Facebook live stream be available for embedding around the web tomorrow? That’s unclear. Will critics and gloaters be able to have separate but visitable conversations about the now Republican-controlled Congress, or will it just be one giant shouting match?

Will viewers of the Pledge to America page be required to declare to all their Facebook friends that they Like the Republican Party in order to gain viewing or commenting access to the stream, as was so widely grimaced about when George W. Bush started a Facebook page?

Will any other online media outlets be allowed to live stream the proceedings, or will it just be Facebook? Twitter? Current.tv? UStream? Who will the new Hellen Thomas of live online social politics be – sitting in the front row and asking difficult questions for decades?

Actually, it’s unclear whether Facebook itself will be providing the live stream or whether it will simply be Republicans embedding a live stream on their own Facebook page. I’ve emailed Facebook for clarification and to answer some of the more specific questions. Will Facebook staff be on camera hosting the coverage as they have in other instances? The company recently live-streamed an on-site visit by George W. Bush and it was quite charming (I say that as a non-Republican, too).

Update: Andrew Noyes, Facebook’s Manager of Public Policy Communications, got back to us by email and had this to say. “Hundreds of members of Congress use Facebook to communicate and connect with their constituents in an official capacity and we’re excited to see Facebook being used prominently as the 112th Congress gavels into session this week.” It turns out that Rep. Boehner, the new Republican Speaker of the House, is leading the effort with his new media team. Facebook is, however, one of very few 3rd party services that Congress has approved for official use, something that was a subject of controversy when the US government started using YouTube prominently.

Many questions philosophical and practical about the implementation will be answered tomorrow morning, but no matter how it goes down, it’s hard to argue that things haven’t changed in the worlds of media and politics.

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