NRATV Shuts Down, Further Severing Ties Between the NRA and Its Longtime Agency

Ackerman McQueen used to operate the now-defunct network

CEO Wayne LaPierre blamed the network's demise on costs and the fact that its content was becoming increasingly unrelated to gun rights. Getty Images
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The National Rifle Association has halted “live TV” programming on NRATV, its online streaming network.

CEO Wayne LaPierre said in a statement on the NRA’s website that the organization is “undergoing a significant change in our communications strategy.” The move marks the latest breakdown between the NRA and longtime agency Ackerman McQueen, which handled programming for the network.

The agency began making moves to terminate its contract with the agency in May following bad blood between the two that led to numerous lawsuits, ending a nearly four-decade relationship.

LaPierre blamed the shutdown of NRATV on costs and the fact that content on the network has become increasingly unrelated to gun rights. Last year, NRATV on-air personality Dana Loesch was criticized for mocking the children’s television show Thomas & Friends after it made its cast more diverse (and displaying a photo of characters in Ku Klux Klan hoods in front of burning tracks).

“As many of you may know, we have been evaluating if our investment in NRATV is generating the benefits needed,” LaPierre said. “This consideration included the return on investment and the cost and the direction of the content. Many members expressed concern about the messaging on NRATV becoming too far removed from our core mission: defending the Second Amendment.”

He also pegged the network’s demise on Ackerman McQueen’s failure to “deliver upon many contractual obligations.” The gun rights group recently accused the agency of failing to comply with records requests and conspiring to “tarnish and ultimately destroy the image of the NRA and its senior leadership,” including LaPierre.

In a statement, Ackerman McQueen said the NRA is “attempting to avoid the strict financial obligations it undertook when it outsourced its work to Ackerman McQueen.” According to Bloomberg, the agency recently said it could shut down NRATV within days unless the group posted a $3 million letter of credit.

“NRA has the obligation to pay several millions of dollars of delinquent payments for work already completed that has benefitted the NRA,” the statement read. “They are refusing to pay, in part to harm [Ackerman McQueen], but also because the NRA probably is having trouble meeting its financial obligations in large measure due to massive unbudgeted legal costs. Ackerman McQueen is not surprised that the NRA is unwilling to honor its agreement to end our contract and our long-standing relationship in an orderly and amicable manner, as Ackerman McQueen proposed because we believed it was in the best interest of the members of the NRA.”

It goes on to say the agency will move on to a new chapter yet continue to fight against the NRA’s “repeated violations of its agreement” with “every legal remedy” available.

Where the NRA’s advertising account will go next is unclear, but IPG recently came out stating that the holding company would not participate in a review if presented with the opportunity. According to the NRA, IPG has not been asked to take part in an agency review for the account.

“For the record, the NRA did not invite Interpublic to participate in an agency review,” said Andrew Arulanandam, managing director of public affairs at NRA in a statement. “No RFP has been issued. At the appropriate time, only a select number of agencies will be invited to participate in the review process. They must meet the highest of creative standards and have a passion for the NRA’s unique brand of public advocacy.”

Igor Volsky, founder and executive director of Guns Down America, an organization that is fighting the gun lobby, gave IPG props for making its stance on the issue known.

“Interpublic deserves credit for living their values and making clear that they do not support the NRA’s guns everywhere agenda,” Volsky said. “Over the last few weeks, we’ve engaged with countless ad agencies and I am confident that more and more will stand against the gun lobby and the reckless and irresponsible messages promoted on NRATV.”

@Minda_Smiley Minda Smiley is an agencies reporter at Adweek.