Newmax's CEO told Congress that DirecTV and AT&T are discriminating against conservative viewpoints as DirecTV nears a decision on whether or not to drop Newsmax.
Representative Wesley Hunt of Texas sent a letter to DirecTV about congressional concerns that DirecTV was targeting a conservative news network. The letter was co-signed by more than 40 other members of Congress.
Newsmax could be dropped by DirecTV as early as 11:59 p.m. Tuesday night.
In its reply, DirecTV said that the decision was about economics, not ideology, but Newsmax CEO Christopher Ruddy responded with an alternative explanation in his response to DirecTV.
“The most important fact about this dispute is this: in response to pressure from Congressional Democrats, AT&T and DirecTV have twice demonetized a conservative news channel in just one year. Yet they continue to carry and pay many liberal channels with a fraction of Newsmax’s audience share. This is prima facie evidence of viewpoint discrimination,” Ruddy said in a letter obtained by Broadcasting+Cable.
Ruddy urged the Republican-controlled House to demand DirecTV and all pay-TV systems “be fair and equitable toward conservative media.” He also said Congress should hold hearings into how Democratic pressure resulted in Newsmax and One America News being targeted by AT&T and DirecTV.
In his letter, Ruddy notes that while Newsmax does not currently receive carriage fees from DirecTV, the agreement has numerous provisions for Newsmax to receive fees upon renewal.
“Last year, we had only three major cable agreements up for renewal -- Verizon, Dish and the NCTC -- and all accepted our modest rate card for renewal. DirecTV is the one acting outside the norm,” Ruddy said.
While balking at paying for Newsmax, “DirecTV continually renews low-rated liberal channels and pays them much higher fees than their market value. Meanwhile, they argue conservative channels should be closed down for ‘cost cutting.’ Again, this is blatant hypocrisy and discrimination.”
Citing Nielsen, Ruddy said Newsmax was the fourth-highest-rated cable news channel and the 16th-highest rated cable channel in daytime. [Newsmax ranked in a tie for 72d place, with Science, in network total viewers in 2022, according to Variety. In August 2022, the highest-rated Newsmax show, Rob Schmitt Tonight, ranked 47th among news shows that month, with an average 264,000 total viewers, per TV Newser.]
Ruddy also said all of the top 75 cable channels on DirecTV get fees, except Newsmax.
“The marketplace has confirmed that Newsmax is a valuable channel deserving a fair and equitable rate, as our renewals with Dish, Verizon, and NCTC demonstrate. It is AT&T and DirecTV that are acting in a discriminatory manner,” Ruddy said. ■
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Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.