As ObamaCare case nears, calls for cameras in high court grow

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An advocacy group is running television ads urging the Supreme Court to broadcast its oral arguments, ahead of a major hearing on ObamaCare this week. 

Fix the Court, a group started last year, is airing a 30-second spot that will run on cable news shows and Comedy Central urging the court to open itself up to “the light of day” and “televise the Supreme Court.”

“America’s biggest moments wouldn’t be the same without TV, but the biggest decisions still happen in the dark, behind closed doors,” an announcer says in the ad. “It’s time for us to see the history made here, in the light of day.”

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The group did not disclosure the size of the purchase, but described it as a “mid five-figure” ad buy. 

The court will hear arguments Wednesday in King v. Burwell, a major case to decide whether the government can continue to provide healthcare subsidies to individuals who purchased insurance through the federal exchange in states that did not set up their own marketplaces.

For years, open-government advocates and some news organizations have called for the court to allow television cameras. While the public is able to attend oral arguments, no electronic devices are allowed inside the court. 

The court releases transcripts and delayed audio recordings of proceedings, in lieu of video recordings.  

Over the years, justices have made a number of arguments against cameras: that recordings would create a dynamic where justices and lawyers perform for the camera, that clips could be provided without sufficient context, and that oral arguments are not an adequate barometer of how a justice will vote, because justices are many times playing devil’s advocate. 

But advocates and members of Congress argue those excuses are not enough to limit transparency, noting that C-SPAN has been broadcasting congressional hearings and floor action for the past few decades.