WASHINGTON — Tired of YouTube clips of precocious kids, stupid pets or faux superheroes? Try out the videos of House Minority Leader John Boehner, or maybe New York Rep. Charles Rangel, the lawmaker in charge of writing tax bills.
Congress is launching official YouTube channels where members of the House and Senate can create and control videos of floor speeches, hearings or ribbon-cuttings.
Lawmakers frequently use the world's most popular online video service to promote themselves and their causes, but the new channels give viewers a single destination to find out what their representatives are up to and express their own opinions.
The goal of the new launch is to imitate the success of President-elect Barack Obama in using the Internet to connect to a vastly expanded range of people, during his election campaign as well as his Saturday radio addresses.
"This is a big deal because it makes it easy for people to interact" with elected officials, said YouTube spokesman Aaron Ferstman.
"Americans, now more than ever, turn to the Web to get their news," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. "Our YouTube channels serve as a direct line to what's happening in Congress." Her office said Pelosi was the first House member to use YouTube, in May 2006.
So far, a minority of members have posted videos on the new sites. Rangel, the Democratic chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, has videos of himself opening a college track meet and talking to ABC's George Stephanopolus.
Boehner, R-Ohio, lists 97 videos, including one introducing the new "house hub" web site. "My colleagues and I are big fans of YouTube," he said.
To facilitate the YouTube agreement, the House and Senate adjusted their rules at the opening of the new Congress last week to let members, who all have their own official Web sites, also post material on third-party Web sites.
The House rules specify that a member must include an exit notice advising a visitor when he or she is leaving an official House Web site for a third-party site. There must also be a disclaimer that neither the member nor the House is responsible for the content of the linked sites.
Because the YouTube videos would be controlled by lawmakers, they would be fundamentally different from C-SPAN coverage of House and Senate debates and congressional hearings. C-SPAN covers floor debates and hearings in their entirety without editing or editorial comment.
YouTube acts as a distribution platform for original content creators and advertisers. YouTube LLC is based in San Bruno, Calif., and is a subsidiary of Google Inc.
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