A fancy 45-foot bus with a $1 million price tag pulls into Saginaw on Wednesday, June 22, in the hopes of luring political wonks to come pay it a visit.
The C-SPAN Digital Bus, equipped with interactive television monitors, computer kiosks and social media applications, is open free to the public from noon to 1 p.m. in the parking lot of the Saginaw Club, 219 N. Washington, in connection with the weekly meeting there of the Rotary Club of Saginaw.
“The average stay for a visitor to the bus can range from a minute or two—just enough time to see what it’s about—to 20 minutes for people who have questions or use our kiosks to explore C-SPAN’s resources,” says Jenny Marland, a marketing representative for the Washington, D.C.-based C-SPAN.
Since it made its debut last summer, she said, the blue-hued bus with familiar federal buildings painted on its exterior has visited cities in 32 states from coast to coast. June’s visit is its first to Michigan.
The stop is co-sponsored by C-SPAN and Charter Cable, Marland said, and Wednesday’s schedule also includes a 9 a.m to 11 a.m. stop on the campus of Saginaw Valley State University and a 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. visit to the Grace A. Dow Memorial Library, 1710 West St. Andrews in Midland.
C-SPAN was created by America’s cable companies in 1979 as a public service and now includes three television networks, a radio station and a website devoted to public affairs—unedited live coverage of the U.S. House and Senate, White House and Pentagon press conferences, political campaigns, the U.S. Supreme Court, historical programming, discussions of non-fiction books, and interviews with people connected to public policy.
It is funded by subscriber fees charged to cable and satellite companies, and operates independent of cable or Congressional oversight.
As for the bus, the two HDTV monitors onboard air programming in progress on C-SPAN, C-SPAN2 and C-SPAN 3. Four Touchsmart computer kiosks offer access to the C-SPAN Video Library, C-SPAN Classroom, Book TV and websites where visitors can test their knowledge on a public affairs quiz, share their opinion on a poll or record a perspective.
And in the social media section, visitors can download C-SPAN podcasts or a phone application, access C-SPAN Radio and, with its three Mac laptops, browse C-SPAN's YouTube page, check its Twitter feed for programming updates, and become a friend on Facebook.
The bus was custom-built in Ohio, using renewable and reusable materials whenever and wherever possible and sustainable design materials. Marland said it cost $1 million for the shell, the conversion process and the equipment onboard.
While this particular bus is new and updated for the digital age, C-SPAN has for 18 years toured the nation with informational buses which produce programs and promote education about civic engagement.