TV Answer Man, I love Newsmax and I love DIRECTV and I can’t figure out who’s telling the truth in this thing. Did DIRECTV get rid of Newsmax because it’s a conservative channel? True or not? What is the truth here? — Ellie, Laramie, Wyoming.
Ellie, on January 24, DIRECTV lost the conservative news channel, Newsmax, in a carriage dispute between the companies. (The blackout also affects DIRECTV Stream and U-verse.)
The TV provider has repeatedly claimed that Newsmax wants “significant” carriage fees to stay on the three TV services. The channel previously provided its signal for free, DIRECTV says.
But Newsmax disputes DIRECTV’s contention, saying the satcaster dropped it because it’s a conservative channel. Noting that DIRECTV dropped OAN, another right-leaning news channel, last year, Newsmax and its chief supporters, congressional Republicans, say DIRECTV has a liberal bias.
Since the dispute began, Newsmax, which is still available on distributors such as Dish as well as for free online, has used its airwaves to hammer DIRECTV for refusing to carry it. Countless Republican officials have appeared on Newsmax to charge that the satellite company is engaging in censorship by removing the two conservative channels.
But DIRECTV has continued to say that the decision is a financial one. The company notes that economic and industry trends have forced pay TV operators to cut costs, including carriage fees. They have to be more judicious in deciding which channels they can carry and how much they can pay. Otherwise, programming acquisition costs will soar, and they will have to pass them along to the subscriber in (even) higher bills.
So who’s telling the truth here?
From this reporter’s perspective, it’s impossible to say. Newsmax and its Republican supporters say DIRECTV’s decision is political, but they have produced no documents to support that charge. The only evidence to support the accusation is that DIRECTV has removed two conservative channels in the last year. But countering that evidence is the fact that DIRECTV added another conservative news channel, The First, just days after removing Newsmax. If DIRECTV was trying to rid the world of conservatism, why would it immediately add another conservative channel?
Newsmax’s supporters have also charged that DIRECTV is biased towards conservatives because it carries several ‘liberal’ news channels. The definition of what makes a news channel a ‘liberal’ one is in the eye of the beholder. But it should be noted that DIRECTV had a three-week carriage dispute with Bloomberg News just 16 months ago, which would seem to counter the argument that it’s only going after conservative news channels.
On the other hand, while DIRECTV says this is just about money, it has failed to produce any documents showing that Newsmax’s fee demands are now ‘significantly’ higher. Until it does, we can’t assume they are telling the truth, either.
Bottom line: Unless Newsmax and congressional Republicans produce an internal DIRECTV document showing company officials expressing a desire to ‘censor’ conservative news, their claim of liberal bias is not a strong one. Likewise, until DIRECTV releases a document proving its financial argument, its claim also can not fully accepted.
House Republicans have threatened to hold hearings on the dispute, and we might get some answers there. We’ll see.
Ellie, hope that helps. Happy viewing and stay safe!
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— Phillip Swann