/ 13 January 2009

US Congress gets its own YouTube sites

Tired of YouTube clips of precocious kids, stupid pets or faux superheroes? The United States 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 spokesperson Aaron Ferstman.

”Americans, now more than ever, turn to the web to get their news,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. ”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.

The lawmaker sites, which can be located on a Google Map interface, are available on youtube.com/househub and youtube.com/senatehub.

So far, a minority of members have posted videos on the new sites.

Charles Rangel, the Democratic chairperson of the House Ways and Means Committee in charge of writing tax bills, has videos of himself opening a college track meet and talking to ABC television’s George Stephanopolus.

House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio lists 97 videos, including one introducing the new ”house hub” website. ”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 allow members, who all have their own official websites, to post material on third-party websites.

The House rules specify that a member must include an exit notice advising a visitor when he or she is leaving an official House website 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.

YouTube acts as a distribution platform for original content creators and advertisers. YouTube LLC is based in San Bruno, California, and is a subsidiary of Google Inc. – Sapa-AP