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Friday, January 27, 2023

DirecTV drops Newsmax as conservative lawmakers protest – The Hollywood Reporter

The conservative Newsmax network was removed from DirecTV effective 11:50 pm EST on Tuesday.

DirecTV upheld the decision, saying the network no longer carries DirecTV, DirecTV Stream, or U-Verse, and the decision was made due to Newsmax’s “rate increase demands.”

“On multiple occasions, we made it clear to Newsmax that we wanted to continue to offer the network, but ultimately Newsmax’s rate increase demands would have led to significantly higher costs that we would have to pass on to our broad customer base. 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 offer our customers and look forward to filling this available channel with new content,” a DirecTV spokesperson said in a statement.

The satellite TV company has been cutting costs as more customers move away from linear TV. In January, the company said it would lay off 10 percent of its administrative staff, or several hundred employees.

However, Newsmax bosses are responding to the move, saying it was “censorship” against the network. “This is a flagrant act of political discrimination and censorship against Newsmax,” Newsmax CEO Christopher Ruddy said in a statement.

“The most extreme liberal channels, even with small ratings, get DirecTV rates from AT&T, but Newsmax and OAN need to be removed from the platform,” Ruddy added.

This comes after Republican lawmakers wrote a letter to the CEO of DirecTV, as well as the CEOs of AT&T and private equity firm TPG Capital, owners of the company, on January 20 expressing concern over the removal of Newsmax in light of its decision to remove One America News, another conservative network, from its lineup last year.

“It is our understanding that DirecTV, still majority owned by AT&T and minority owned and managed by TPG Capital, is moving to take the platform away from Newsmax by denying it cable rates fairly and equitably,” the letter from members of the Congress. read

The lawmakers alleged that DirecTV carries 11 “liberal” news channels, including Vice Media, a company with which it shares several board members and which members of Congress say charge higher rates.

“Together, these two actions lead us to believe that DirecTV, one of the nation’s largest distributors of multichannel video programming, is actively working to limit conservative views on its system. This is extremely concerning to members of Congress because it suppresses political discourse and hinders our ability to connect with our constituents,” the lawmakers said.

“Congress intends to conduct comprehensive oversight of the degree to which House Democrats and federal office staff colluded with private companies to limit, restrict, and circumvent First Amendment rights. These investigations will not be limited to social media companies,” the letter says.

DirecTV responded to the letter on January 23, saying that the company had been trying to continue offering Newsmax on the same terms.

“Let me start by assuring you in no way that DIRECTV is working to limit conservative views. DIRECTV’s core value proposition to its customers is to offer a wide variety of programming options at prices that fit our customers’ pockets. That also applies to our news channel offerings,” the letter says.

“We are not trying to take the platform away from Newsmax. On the contrary, we want to continue our transmission of Newsmax on the same terms as today, and we have made this clear to Newsmax. We have been negotiating with Newsmax for months and, as our current agreement expires, we are initiating a short-term extension to allow the parties additional time to reach an agreement. We continue to have discussions with Newsmax and are working in good faith to reach an agreement that we believe is in the best interest of DIRECTV subscribers,” he continues.

Newsmax positions itself as a competitor to Fox News and has hired several of its former hosts, including Heather Childers, Greg Kelly, Rob Schmitt, and Bob Sellers. He was a strong supporter of former President Donald Trump and spread his false claims that the 2020 election was rigged. Newsmax later apologized to specific people it claimed were involved.

The conservative television channel had returned to DirecTV in June 2017, after being removed from the satellite network and its competitor, Dish, in 2016. At the time, Newsmax urged its viewers to call Dish and ask them to bring back the channel. The station had been “slotted between a set of shopping channels,” making it difficult to locate, the channel argued at the time.

“We are disappointed by DISH Network’s decision to stop carrying Newsmax TV. In doing so, DISH has shut down a major, independent news voice,” the channel said at the time.

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