Senate Republicans pen letter asking DirecTV to explain decision ditching Newsmax

A group of leading Senate Republicans is requesting information from cable provider DirecTV surrounding its recent decision to drop conservative network Newsmax from its channel lineup. 

In a letter dated Feb. 1 and shared exclusively with The Hill, GOP Sens. Ted Cruz (Texas), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Mike Lee (Utah) and Tom Cotton (Ark.) wrote to the cable provider’s corporate leadership expressing that they are “deeply disturbed” by its decision to drop the network and alleged the episode “may be the latest example of big business suppressing politically disfavored speech at the behest of liberal Democrats.” 

“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 senators wrote. “The silencing of conservative speech at the request of government officials is a direct assault on free speech and a threat to democracy.” 

DirecTV last week dropped Newsmax, a small conservative news network featuring content that is largely supportive of former President Trump and other conservatives, from its channel lineup following a dispute between the two parties over carrier fees. 

Under its previous agreement with Newsmax, which has an audience that is fractional compared to the three leading cable news channels — Fox News, CNN and MSNBC — DirecTV paid Newsmax no carrier fees. 

DirecTV representatives told The Hill last week that during negotiations with the network, it “made it clear to Newsmax that we wanted to continue to offer the network,” but ultimately the network’s demands for rate increases “would have led to significantly higher costs that we would have to pass on to our broad customer base.”

In a statement to The Hill on Wednesday, DirecTV said it takes “the concerns raised by these elected officials seriously, and in our response to the letter we plan to detail the facts behind our business decision being based on financial terms and not ideology.”

“We continue to offer our customers a balanced mix of 24-hour news channels as part of a diversified programming lineup,” a spokesperson for the cable provider said. 

Newsmax CEO Chris Ruddy and the network’s defenders have countered that the decision is based in political bias against conservatives and pointed to DirecTV’s move last year dropping One America News, another less watched pro-Trump cable channel. 

A day after it dropped Newsmax from its lineup, DirecTV announced the addition of conservative opinion and commentary network The First to its lineup. 

Experts and media observers have said the episode highlights Newsmax’s efforts to bolster its bargaining power at the negotiating table with cable providers and boost its credibility with conservative audiences. 

Still, leading GOP figures like Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis have rallied around Newsmax as they renew calls of bias against conservatives in the mainstream media and tech companies. 

A group of several dozen House Republicans, led by Rep. Wesley Hunt (Texas), also sent a letter to DirecTV last week bemoaning the decision, arguing they will no longer be able to “reach conservative voters on a platform that primarily serves conservative-leaning areas of the country.”  

In their letter, the senators asked the cable provider to disclose whether DirecTV, or its parent company, AT&T, communicated “with any federal, state, or local government officials regarding the decisions to drop Newsmax or OANN” and whether those government officials “made any threats or promised any inducements to pressure DirecTV” to drop the network. 

— Updated 9:22 p.m.

Tags Lindsey Graham Mike Lee Newsmax Ted Cruz Ted Cruz Tom Cotton

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