At midnight Tuesday, AT&T’s DirecTV cut Newsmax’s signal, immediately shutting the network off from more than 13 million customers of the satellite service, DirecTV Stream, and U-Verse.
This is the second time in the past year AT&T has moved to cancel a conservative channel, with DirecTV deplatforming OAN in April.
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Despite Newsmax being the 4th highest-rated cable news channel in the nation, a top 20 cable news channel overall, and watched by 25 million Americans on cable alone, according to Nielsen, DirecTV said it was taking the step as a “cost-cutting” measure and would never pay Newsmax a cable license fee.
DirecTV pays cable license fees to all top 75 cable channels and to all 22 liberal news and information channels it carries. Almost all of these channels are paid hefty license fees significantly more than Newsmax was seeking — and despite the fact that most of the channels have much lower ratings than Newsmax.
“This is a blatant act of political discrimination and censorship against Newsmax,” Christopher Ruddy, CEO of Newsmax said.
“The most extreme liberal channels, even with tiny ratings, get fees from AT&T’s DirecTV, but Newsmax and OAN need to be deplatformed,” Ruddy added.
Last week, as news spread in Congress that AT&T DirecTV was moving to deplatform Newsmax, 41 Republican congressmen led by Rep. Wesley Hunt, R-Texas, sent a letter to the CEOs of AT&T, DirecTV, and hedge fund TPG Capital, the minority operator of the satellite system, warning of hearings.
You think it's just a coincidence that @ATT @DIRECTV cancelled the only cable news channel that broadcasts @realDonaldTrump's campaign rallies? @NEWSMAX— toddstarnes (@toddstarnes) January 25, 2023
The members of Congress also demanded to know why conservative media was being targeted for censorship, with the letter noting the House is “deeply concerned about this undemocratic assault on free speech.”
“If Newsmax is removed from DirecTV, in less than a year House Republicans will have lost two of the three cable news channels that reach conservative voters on a platform that primarily serves conservative-leaning areas of the country,” Hunt stated in his letter.
The letter was signed by some of the most significant members of the House, including the GOP conference chair, Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., House Oversight Chair James Comer, R-Ky., and Ways and Means Chair Jason Smith, R-Mo.
Hunt’s letter claims that DirecTV is “moving to deplatform Newsmax by denying it cable fees on a fair and equitable basis.”
AT&T DirecTV’s decision to drop OAN and Newsmax comes on the heels of a February 2021 letter written by Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., and then-Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Calif., demanding that cable and satellite TV providers explain their alleged role in the “spread of dangerous misinformation” by carrying conservative networks.
After the Eshoo and McNerney letter, in April 2022, AT&T removed OAN from DirecTV.
About the same time, the Biden administration speedily approved AT&T’s proposed $43 billion merger of its WarnerMedia division with Discovery.
AT&T continues to own 70% of DirecTV, but in 2021 added TPG Capital as its partner with a 30% stake in 2021.
TPG, a Texas-based financial firm and hedge fund, is known for its liberal politics. FEC documents show that since 1993, 90% of its donations have gone to Democrat candidates and committees.
Hunt’s letter added: “Newsmax is one of the most watched cable news channels in America; millions of people turn to Newsmax as a source of trusted information. Now more than ever, the American people need access to a free and fair press.”
As news reports indicated the likelihood of a Newsmax deplatforming Tuesday night, DirecTV representatives made false claims to the media about Newsmax and its negotiations.
DirecTV falsely claimed to media outlets that Newsmax is asking for a fee but still wants to keep a free stream on OTT platforms (over-the-top service is a type of service offered directly to viewers).
But this is false; no operator pays a fee while Newsmax streams free and DirecTV was fully aware the free stream will end this year.
“We’ve discussed with Newsmax on several occasions that we’d like to offer their programming, however, the network is now seeking significant fees that we cannot pass on to our broad customer base,” a DirecTV representative claimed in a statement.
But an analysis shows that Newsmax was seeking a fee with a 75% discount to its market value, and compared to fees currently paid by DirecTV, almost all 50 channels below Newsmax in ratings get higher fees.
Last year, three major cable operators renewed with Newsmax and agreed to the modest fee.
Newsmax is urging its supporters to move their pay TV, cellphone, and other services from AT&T and DirecTV to other companies that do not engage in political discrimination.
Newsmax is also encouraging viewers and readers to contact their members of Congress and senators to oppose censorship of Newsmax and demand support for fairness and equity for conservative media.
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