DirecTV stopped carrying conservative news network Newsmax as of midnight Wednesday when its contract expired, citing cost reasons.
Republicans are charging that DirecTV is trying to squelch dissemination of conservative viewpoints, and threatening to hold hearings to investigate the matter.
DirecTV — one of the first distributors to carry Newsmax — said it continued to do so on its satellite and streaming services and U-verse TV when it involved no cost to subscribers, but Newsmax’s demand to start charging “significant” carriage fees made continuing the relationship untenable.
“On multiple occasions, we made it clear to Newsmax that we wanted to continue to offer the network, but ultimately Newsmax’s demands for rate increases would have led to significantly higher costs that we would have to pass on to our broad customer base,” DirecTV said in a statement. "Anyone, including our customers, can watch the network for free via NewsmaxTV.com, YouTube.com and on multiple streaming platforms like Amazon Fire TV, Roku, and Google Play. We continually evaluate the most relevant programming to provide our customers and expect to fill this available channel with new content."
On Monday, Rep. Wesley Hunt (R-Texas) sent DirecTV a letter, co-signed by more than 40 other Republican members of Congress, saying it is their understanding that “DirecTV — still majority-owned by AT&T and minority-owned and managed by TPG Capital — is moving to de-platform Newsmax by denying it cable fees on a fair and equitable basis.” AT&T owns 70% of DirecTV, but DirecTV operates as an independent entity.
The letter pointed out that DirecTV has also stopped carrying the conservative One America News Network (OAN), but continues to carry what Hunt characterized as 11 “liberal news and information” networks.
It asked DirecTV to provide its ratings for the various news networks it carries, set-top box data and information about the fees paid to the networks.
It also stated that if DirecTV did decide to drop Newsmax, “Congress intends to conduct extensive oversight on the extent to which House Democrats and officials in federal offices colluded with private companies to limit, restrict, and circumvent First Amendment rights. These investigations will not be limited to social media companies.”
Nielsen ratings show Newsmax’s viewership averaging 101,000 households, or less than 0.1% of total TV households—92% lower than Fox News, 84% lower than MSNBC, and 79% lower than CNN, noted NextTV.
On Tuesday, Newsmax CEO Christopher Ruddy sent a letter to Hunt asserting that “in response to pressure from Congressional Democrats, AT&T and DirecTV have twice demonetized a conservative news channel in just one year. Yet they continue to carry and pay many liberal channels with a fraction of Newsmax’s audience share. This is prima facie evidence of viewpoint discrimination.”
Several other pay-TV operators also dropped Newsmax last year, including Atlantic Broadband, Cincinnati Bell, Central Pennsylvania’s Blue Ridge Communications, and South Carolina-based, Cable One-owned Hargray Communications.
DirecTV also cited financial and viewership reasons for dropping OAN last April, when the companies’ contract expired, and Republicans also reacted with accusations of anti-conservative bias.
After OAN was dropped, its parent company Herring Networks sued DirecTV and AT&T, claiming in part that they breached their contract due to political pressure. OAN, along with Newsmax and Fox News, were sued by voting machine companies following the 2020 election, based on assertions that the networks damaged the companies by intentionally broadcasting false claims of voting fraud.
Last week, a California Superior Court judge dismissed all but one of Herrings’s claims, upholding DirecTV’s right to end the contract at expiration. The judge kept alive a claim that DirecTV had breached a confidentiality provision in its contract.