TV Answer Man, we watch One America News (OAN) every day, but I’ve read all these stories saying that AT&T and DIRECTV shouldn’t carry it for some reason I don’t get but it’s probably politics as always. Do you think DIRECTV will get rid of OAN because of political pressure? I read one story that said a media watchdog said it should happen, whatever a media watchdog is. — Teresa, Lexington Park, Maryland. 

Teresa, Reuters reported last week that AT&T encouraged Robert Herring, the owner of One America News, to start the conservative news channel several years ago, promising carriage on DIRECTV which would mean tens of millions of dollars in carriage fees.

It’s unclear why AT&T would have interest in creating One America News; the telco has been a vocal supporter of various liberal social justice causes, including Black Lives Matter. But one reason could be that the company wanted to carry an additional conservative news channel in case it ever lost Fox News in a fee fight. Another reason could be that AT&T thought that OAN would appeal to conservative viewers, particularly in rural communities where DIRECTV dishes are a common sight. (For the record, AT&T says its involvement in the launch of One America News Network is exaggerated in the Reuters article.)

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There’s also suggestions in the article that the conservative Herring promised to help AT&T lobby federal regulators to approve AT&T’s merger with DIRECTV in 2014. However, with a liberal Democratic administration (President Obama) in power at the time, that seems a bit nebulous.

Regardless, the Reuters story has triggered a wave of criticism towards AT&T from liberals who say the communications giant is responsible for creating a news channel that Democrats (and even some Republicans) allege engages in purposeful disinformation on topics such as vaccine effectiveness, the 2020 presidential election and the Covid-19 pandemic. OAN denies the charge, saying that it’s simply offering viewpoints that differ from those held by their opponents.

Media Matters For America, that media watchdog you referred to, is one of many liberal groups that have called for DIRECTV to dump OAN. (AT&T now owns 70 percent of DIRECTV after a minority stake sale earlier this year to TPG, a private equity firm.)

So will DIRECTV, now run by a new management team, succumb to the political pressure and remove OAN from its lineup.

Highly unlikely, at least not anytime soon.

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DIRECTV is currently under contract to carry OAN and it would risk a lawsuit if it dropped the channel just because some political organizations say they should. We don’t know when the contract ends, but until it does, OAN isn’t going anywhere.

In fact, there’s precedent here. DIRECTV received considerable criticism in 2018 when it announced it would carry the Scientology Channel, the network produced by the controversial religious group. Some political officials, and some former Scientology members, urged AT&T not to carry the channel. But three years later, the Scientology Channel is still on DIRECTV at channel 320.

Now there is a difference here. The Scientology Channel is likely paying for carriage rather than the traditional carriage method where the pay TV provider pays the channel. But the political heat in 2018 was just as intense as it is now for OAN, and AT&T and DIRECTV didn’t cave.

Whenever OAN’s contract expires, we’ll see then if DIRECTV still believes it’s worth carrying — and paying for it. But for now, it says here that OAN will stay in the lineup.

Teresa, hope that makes sense. Happy viewing, and stay safe!

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— Phillip Swann