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Health Care Summit Won't Be Seen Live on Most C-SPAN Channels

You won't see it on C-SPAN. More than a year after candidate Barack Obama promised that the entire health care debate would be broadcast live on the channel, and after months of Republican complaints that Democrats were negotiating behind closed doors, Thursday's health care summit will not be broadcast on C-SPAN.

Obama's top-level bipartisan summit won't even be seen on C-SPAN 2.

Television audiences who rely on C-SPAN and C-SPAN 2 for uninterrupted coverage of public affairs events will have to tune to C-SPAN 3 or other cable outlets, including Fox News, to watch the event. 

FoxNews.com will stream live coverage of the White House summit in its entirety.

C-SPAN may have to bail out because it is committed to its long-standing tradition of airing live floor proceedings in the House of Representatives, and C-SPAN 2 does the same with the Senate. Even when bills, amendments or votes are not scheduled, the two channels will always air procedural business, such as special orders and morning business.

Both congressional chambers are expected to be in session Thursday while lawmakers attend the day-long summit at Blair House. The House is taking up intelligence authorization; the Senate's schedule is not set. 

So what is C-SPAN 3, and who gets it? 

C-SPAN 3 picks up the slack when events are not covered by the other two channels, and at other times it airs archival historical programming. For example, earlier this week C-SPAN 3 aired the Toyota recall hearing, which was a committee hearing held while the House and Senate were in session. 

Direct TV and DISH Network do not carry C-SPAN 3, leaving a paltry 31 million households who get it from their cable systems.

In December, C-SPAN's chairman and founder Brian Lamb urged Congress to open "all important negotiations, including any conference committee meetings," to televised coverage on his network. 

"President Obama, Senate and House leaders, many of your rank-and-file members, and the nation's editorial pages have all talked about the value of transparent discussions on reforming the nation's health care system," Lamb wrote. "Now that the process moves to the critical stage of reconciliation between the chambers, we respectfully request that you allow the public full access, through television, to legislation that will affect the lives of every single American." 

"The C-SPAN networks will commit the necessary resources to covering all of the sessions LIVE and in their entirety," he wrote.

C-SPAN spokesman Howard Mortman said the health care pow-wow will re-air on C-SPAN or C-SPAN 2 when the House or Senate adjourns, which is usually during prime time and will be opposite the Olympics.

Jacqueline Pham is a current Fox News and former C-SPAN producer.