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Newsmax v. DirecTV: A Fight for What's Right

signage for newsmax television broadcasting network is displayed at a broadcast TV booth
(Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images)

Dennis Kneale By Wednesday, 15 February 2023 04:06 PM EST Current | Bio | Archive

By now, AT&T must be regretting the decision by executives at its DirecTV service to oust the Newsmax network from the 13-million-subscriber platform. The Newsmax response has been vociferous and effective, enlisting a platoon of conservative allies to side with the cable network.

Newsmax has fought back against its much larger foe by running a non-stop barrage of on-air stories about the clash, and online coverage on its website, and referrals to a new fight website. It also has used Twitter as a megaphone and a rallying point for supporters.

What AT&T and DirecTV brass may have viewed as a negotiation over new fees has blown up into a fight against Big Tech censorship. And with good reason.

DirecTV customers call toll free at 877-763-9762 to cancel/complain

DirecTV canceled a smaller conservative network, OAN, last April, after a few Democrats called on media platforms to pull the plug on conservative networks for spreading "misinformation." Now this?

President Trump weighed in, tweeting on his platform, Truth Social: "WOW. AT&T DIRECTV REMOVES NEWSMAX FROM ITS CHANNEL LINEUP. This disgusting move comes after ‘deplatforming' OAN last year. The Radical Left seems to have taken over the mind and soul of AT&T."

Rand Paul followed suit soon after, tweeting: "I would cancel @DIRECTV for censoring @NEWSMAX but I already cancelled them for cancelling @OANN." Bada bing! But seriously, folks ...

The long list of conservatives rallying to support Newsmax includes former Govs. Sarah Palin of Alaska and Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, as well as Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Rand Paul of Kentucky, and former Rep. Newt Gingrich of Georgia The outspoken Reps. Lauren Boebert of Colorado, Matt Gaetz of Florida, Elise Stefanik of New York and Andy Biggs of Arizona are onboard.

Even Alan Dershowitz, the liberal lawyer, has taken up Newsmax's cause. And a few others join him, including Joe Lieberman, the former Democrat vice presidential candidate, and former Democrat, now independent Tulsi Gabbard, who tweeted that "AT&T's DirecTV is actively censoring conservative voices and fueling the fire of divisiveness that is tearing this country apart."

Conservative radio host Mark Levin has railed against the DirecTV move to his 14 million listeners. Other backers include Sean Hannity of Fox News, and Prager University founder Dennis Prager, as well as actor Jon Voigt and Hercules himself (actor Kevin Sorbo).

DirecTV shut down Newsmax at midnight on Tuesday, Jan. 24, and the next morning ran its first story: "AT&T's DirecTV Cancels NEWSMAX in Censorship Move."

The story cited DirecTV's move last April, shoving OAN off the satellite service, and quoted Newsmax CEO Chris Ruddy: "This is a blatant act of political discrimination and censorship against Newsmax."

And it was. Clearly, a private platform like DirecTV has the right to ban conservative views if it chooses, because the First Amendment's prohibition against a prior restraint applies only to government.

But what a clueless business decision for DirecTV and AT&T to make. In a fee fight with CNN or MSNBC, DirecTV never would have bounced the network off its service; in Newsmax's case, why risk offending the conservative half of the country?

AT&T stock was down 7% at one point in this battle, perhaps in part because of this kerfuffle. It has come back, yet it still was down a bit while other wireless companies were up 2% in the same period.

As it is, DirecTV is in a sad state of decline. AT&T paid $49 billion for DirecTV in 2015, when it had 24 million paying subscribers. It is down to less than half that — and the service could lose more viewers because of the feud with Newsmax.

Newsmax supporters are calling on DirecTV subscribers to cancel their service in protest. The DirecTV executives forgot the old warning: Never pick a fight with a man who buys ink by the barrel, or make that pixels by the billions.

Newsmax is now the fourth-largest news network, and DirecTV pays it nothing, yet it pays fees to more than 20 other liberal nets, including PBS, MSNBC and CNN, and even Vice. Newsmax reportedly was seeking only 10 cents per subscriber per month, which amounts to $16 million or so on a DirecTV revenue base of around $40 billion.

A pittance, yet DirecTV took a hard line against the conservative network. Based on the minimum subscriber charge of $70 per month, if only 18,000 or so of the company's 13 million subs cancel DirecTV, it will lose the same amount of money it could have paid out to Newsmax.

With stakes this small, why did DirecTV choose to fight rather than make peace?

Dennis Kneale is a writer and media strategist in New York and host of the podcast, "What's Bugging Me." Previously, he was an anchor at CNBC and at Fox Business Network, after serving as a senior editor at The Wall Street Journal and managing editor of Forbes. Read Dennis Kneale's reports — More Here.

Actions to Take Now

1. DirecTV customers call toll free at 877-763-9762 to cancel/complain.

2. AT&T customers call toll free at 888-855-2338 to cancel/complain for U-verse, cellular, and wireless services.

3. Call your congressman or senator at 202-224-3121 and demand they stop AT&T DirecTV's censorship of NEWSMAX — ask them to give you a date on the hearings!

4. Go to our online petition and get more info:

© 2024 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

What AT&T and DirecTV brass may have viewed as a negotiation over new fees has blown up into a fight against Big Tech censorship. And with good reason.
newsmax, direct tv, att, censorship, big tech
Wednesday, 15 February 2023 04:06 PM
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