DIRECTV last night lost the right-wing news channel, Newsmax, in a carriage dispute between the companies. (The blackout also affects DIRECTV Stream and U-verse.)

The TV provider early this morning issued a statement saying that Newsmax wanted “significant” carriage fees to stay on the three TV services. The channel previously provided its signal for free, DIRECTV claimed.

“On multiple occasions, we made it clear to Newsmax that we wanted to continue to offer the network, but ultimately Newsmax’s demands for rate increases would have led to significantly higher costs that we would have to pass on to our broad customer base,” the DIRECTV statement reads. “Anyone, including our customers, can watch the network for free via, and on multiple streaming platforms like Amazon Fire TV, Roku, and Google Play. We continually evaluate the most relevant programming to provide our customers and expect to fill this available channel with new content.”

DIRECTV, which recently laid off hundreds of employees, is likely looking to reduce costs as the nation enters what could be a recession year. But Newsmax disputes DIRECTV’s contention that it now wants carriage fees to stay on the TV services.

“That is simply false. DIRECTV knows that no operator pays a fee while Newsmax streams free,” Christopher Ruddy, CEO of Newsmax Media, said in an article at the Newsmax web site.

Newsmax and its GOP supporters in Congress claim DIRECTV removed the channel because it was conservative. Noting that DIRECTV dropped OAN, another right-leaning news channel, last year, the GOP members say the TV provider is exhibiting a liberal bias.

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“Newsmax is one of the most watched cable news channels in America; millions of people turn to Newsmax as a source of trusted information. Now more than ever, the American people need access to a free and fair press,” Rep. Wesley Hunt (R-Texas) told the Washington Examiner which first reported on a letter the GOP group sent to DIRECTV. “I am sure that DIRECTV will claim that removing Newsmax from their lineup of channels was purely a business decision, but that is hard to accept when liberal news channels like Vice Media continue to remain on the air.  Vice is a ratings failure for DIRECTV, yet they continue to profit from their relationship with DIRECTV.”

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— Phillip Swann