America's Best Leaders: Q&A with Brian Lamb, president and CEO of C-SPAN
Another point that Jim Collins made has to do with whether not as a company was getting better and better . . . there was some kind of breakthrough moment where the people running the company looked back at that and thought wow, here was this one particular breakthrough. Has that happened with C-SPAN?
Oh, yeah. I think this is complicated for the average viewer to understand because it seems so easy, but the year that we got (which was 1982) a full-time satellitethey call them transponders, but a channel on the satelliteand that our industry agreed to pay for that, and agreed to allow us to do 24 hours a day, seven days a week, was a major breakthrough.
Technology all through the years has been a tremendous breakthrough, where cameras became less expensive, microwave gear became less expensive, satellite gear became less expensive. More than anything else we've been affected here by technology. I'll give you one tiny-sounding little technology change that we use that for the audience was a major breakthrough. And that wasand it's been a long time ago, I can't remember, 15 years ago or sowe noticed that all the witnesses before committees on Capitol Hill were onlyour cameras were set up on the side and all you would see is the side of people's faces, and we didn't like that. And so we looked for ways to change it. And it was the creation of robotic cameras that allowed us to put a camera in front of the witness and not interfere with the committee. That was a huge breakthrough, because now the audience always seesand all the other networks take our stuff from Capitol Hill all the timethe audience now sees the frontal picture of a human being, and that wasI don't know the exact date, but that date was a major breakthrough for the audience. And it was all internal here, where we all said, we've got to solve this problem. And Capitol Hill often doesn't work with you on these things, and they didn't want a human being sitting in front of the committee operating a camera. . . . I think it's huge for the audience because now almost never do you see anything but the face of witnesses.
With all the demands on your time, how do you organize your day?
My job is a lot easier today than it ever has been because the basic daily, hourly activities are run by somebody else. . . . I have time to do things, and it's not a crazy place at this stage. I'll be 64 next month [October 2005]. And you know I don't want to kill myself in the job. Some people want to be dragged out with their boots on; that's not my goal. My goal at this point is that we stay on mission, and that I'm as supportive as I can be of people who're knocking themselves out here all the time and pay attention to what they do and try to, if we've slipped a little bit, catch it. But . . . these folks here know what they're doing now . . . I don't want to sound like I'm the father figure, but they really do know what they're doing, and they don't need me to tell them what they're doing. So I try to stay away from them. There was a time when I would be . . . pretty apoplectic when things weren't going right, but they figured it out. They're as concerned about it as I ever was now, let's put it that way.