This article examines the effect of television on the length of legislative sessions at the federal level in the United States. Data from the U.S. Congress during the period 1972–96 are employed, during part of which time each house of Congress received significant television coverage by C‐SPAN and C‐SPAN2. Evidence from a Parks regression suggests that the presence of C‐SPAN has increased House sessions by 88–250 hours and the presence of C‐SPAN2 has increased Senate sessions by a striking 252–431 hours, other things constant. Additional estimates suggest that House sessions are about two minutes longer per bill introduced under the eye of C‐SPAN, and Senate sessions are about four minutes longer per bill introduced in the presence of C‐SPAN2. Longer sessions, which represent low‐cost forms of advertising for incumbents, are not without costs to taxpayers. We estimate that these costs lie somewhere between $16 million and $392 million in real terms per session of Congress.
Copyright (C) 2001, Western Economic Association International
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