The right is not retreating from its fight with DirecTV.
Several Republican senators unleashed on the satellite carrier Wednesday over its move to drop the right-wing channel Newsmax from its lineup, adding to mounting pressure DirecTV has faced over the matter. The senators — Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham, Mike Lee, and Tom Cotton — wrote in a letter to the company that they are “deeply disturbed” by the decision.
The senators suggested DirecTV’s move was all part of a nefarious plot to “censor” conservative viewpoints. The Republican National Committee also got in on the action, saying that DirecTV must be held accountable for its “censorship of Republican voices.”
It’s all part of a familiar theme that Republicans have pushed over the years: that Big Tech and the mainstream media hold disdain for conservatives and want to scrub their voices entirely from the public conversation.
Of course, rarely is reality in sync with that narrative. And, in this case, Republicans — who purport to embrace a pro-business posture and support the free market — are ignoring glaring facts to effectively help bully a private company into paying for a product it doesn’t want or believe would be financially prudent.
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At the center of the battle: Newsmax demanded DirecTV pay a carriage fee — tens of millions of dollars, according to a person familiar with the matter — to continue carrying the channel in the satellite carrier’s lineup. DirecTV refused, saying that it did not want to pass additional costs down to subscribers for a low-rated channel that a small percentage of viewers actually watched. DirecTV also balked at paying for the same content that streams to users for free on other platforms, such as Roku.
It was a run-of-the-mill carriage dispute — a quarrel not unfamiliar in the television industry (YouTube TV, for instance, dropped MLB Network this week after a contract dispute). But the right-wing channel, led by Chris Ruddy, who is well-connected in GOP circles, has sought to leverage its political power to pressure DirecTV into paying up.
In response, DirecTV has tried to placate Republicans. Last week, it added to its lineup the right-wing channel The First, which features hosts such as Bill O’Reilly, Dana Loesch, Liz Wheeler, and Jesse Kelly. The company touted the move as an example that the carrier holds no bias against conservatives and was happy to offer similar content — so long as it meant it wouldn’t have to pass on higher costs to customers.
But that gesture hasn’t quelled Republicans, who are now using this contract dispute as another example illustrating that conservatives are supposedly under attack by leftist, corporate forces. Which is to say that DirecTV now finds itself squarely in the middle of a raging battle in the information wars — and there are no signs it will end anytime soon.
In fact, all signs point to this escalating in the weeks and months ahead. And if history is any guide, we could soon see Republicans drag executives from DirecTV and AT&T, whose shareholders own a majority of the company, before Congress over the dispute.
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