What typically transpires as a business dispute between a cable network and cable/satellite provider has morphed into a full-fledged political firestorm.
Newsmax and DirecTV, which are involved in a carriage fee dispute, have attracted the attention of Senate Republicans who have now written a letter to DirectTV leadership saying that they are “deeply disturbed” by the decision to drop the cable news network, which leans conservative.
According to The Hill, the names of the GOP Senators attached to the letter include Ted Cruz (Texas), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Mike Lee (Utah), and Tom Cotton (Ark.).
In that letter, the Senators allege that the actions by DirecTV “may be the latest example of big business suppressing politically disfavored speech at the behest of liberal Democrats.”
They also claim that “DirecTV’s decision follows recent revelations of collusion between Big Tech companies and Democrat officials to label conservative speech as ‘misinformation’ and censor it. The silencing of conservative speech at the request of government officials is a direct assault on free speech and a threat to democracy.”
The GOP Senators are not the only politicians to question DirecTV’s moves. House Republicans, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, and former President Donald Trump have all chimed in, putting their weight behind Newsmax.
Newsmax, was dropped from DirecTV last week after the two companies failed to come to terms on a new carriage deal, which would have seen Newsmax getting a carriage fee similar to what other prominent cable news networks like CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC receive.
Newsmax CEO Chris Ruddy added political fuel to the situation, saying, “This is a blatant act of political discrimination and censorship against Newsmax.”
His comments propped up the ears of conservative politicians leading to this current state of affairs.
DirecTV does not pay carriage fees to up-and-coming TV channels seeking a wider audience, which is what it viewed Newsmax as.
According to live plus same day data from Nielsen, Newsmax averaged 178,000 total primetime viewers in 2022, placing No. 57 overall on basic cable and behind Fox News, MSNBC, CNN, HLN and CNBC. The channel averaged 120,000 viewers in total day in 2022, No. 52 on basic cable behind Fox News, MSNBC, CNN, HLN and CNBC.
Nevertheless, DirecTV has said that it wanted to continue to offer the network, but because of Newsmax’s demands for rate increases, it would have led to significantly higher costs, which would have been passed on to DirecTV’s broad customer base.
In Newsmax’s place, DirecTV has added another conservative-leaning network, The First, which specializes in conservative opinion and commentary. The channel features shows hosted by former Fox News personality Bill O’Reilly and former NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch.