You Can Stream All 51 Days of the Watergate Hearings Online for Free

While televising congressional hearings may seem like a pretty contemporary custom, the media has been bringing cameras to Capitol Hill (and into courtrooms) for decades. The first live TV broadcast of a congressional meeting was the opening session of the 80th Congress back in January 1947, but it didn’t become a common practice until a few decades later, when the Watergate scandal bolstered public demand for greater government transparency. On May 17, 1973 — 11 months to the day after the Watergate break-in — North Carolina Senator Sam Ervin, head of the committee tasked with investigating the scandal, kicked off the first of 51 days of public, televised hearings. Though the coverage took place during the day, the National Public Affairs Center for Television aired it every night in full on PBS stations, anchored by Robert MacNeil and Jim Lehrer. These “gavel to gavel” broadcasts continued until November 15, 1973. To revisit them today, however, all you need is Internet access. The American Archive of Public Broadcasting (AAPB), an organization run by the Library of Congress and Boston radio station WGBH, has made all the footage available to stream for free online. The digital exhibit also includes a comprehensive episode guide, transcripts, a cast of characters breakdown, and the videos from the House Judiciary Committee’s impeachment debates the following year. What you won’t see is any defense from Richard Nixon himself: He resigned on August 8, 1974, before the House could vote to impeach him.