‘Your Voice Was Heard’ as Newsmax Returns to DirecTV
On Thursday mornings, DirecTV subscribers turned on their screens and saw something they hadn’t seen in a while: Newsmax.
After 81 days, and the delivery of more than 17,000 signed petitions from Family Research Council, cable provider DirecTV has restored Newsmax, which vanished from its channel lineup at the stroke of midnight on January 25. Subscribers saw familiar Newsmax personalities return to the airwaves on Thursday morning, after the two companies inked a multi-year agreement that Newsmax will be available on DirecTV, DirecTV Stream and U-verse, “at no additional cost to customers,” according to DirecTV.
“Your voice was heard,” said FRC President Tony Perkins on Thursday. “This outcome speaks to the power of citizens and their elected representatives working to stop viewpoint discrimination,” agreed Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), one of the network’s highest-profile supporters.
“Free speech is a God-given right that is protected under the U.S. Constitution. That includes conservative and Christian viewpoints that deserve to be covered in the news,” said FRC’s petition signed by 17,614 people. “As Newsmax is the biggest U.S. cable news network reporting on issues vital to people of faith and affords faith leaders the opportunity to offer their views to millions of interested Americans, I call upon AT&T and DirecTV to bring Newsmax back to your lineup. Unless this decision is reversed, I will not be conducting any further business with your products and services.”
Catholic League President Bill Donohue had also called on subscribers to cancel DirecTV over the dispute. “When we speak up loud enough, we’re heard,” said Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Col.).
In a statement on Wednesday, DirecTV CEO Bill Morrow chalked up the removal to “an all-too-common carriage dispute,” with Newsmax demanding to receive a portion of subscription revenue as it contends many lower-rated, left-of-center networks do. But many believed politics convinced cable executives to expunge the right-of-center Newsmax just one year after DirecTV removed another conservative news broadcaster, One America News Network (OAN) following political pressure from congressional Democrats.
“Some purported news outlets have long been misinformation rumor mills and conspiracy theory hotbeds that produce content that leads to real harm,” wrote Rep. Anna Eshoo and then-Rep. Jerry McNerney (both D-Calif.) in a letter to DirecTV majority owner AT&T in February 2021. “Misinformation on TV has led to our current polluted information environment that radicalizes individuals to commit seditious acts and rejects public health best practices, among other issues in our public discourse.”
DirecTV subsequently dropped OAN in January 2022. Its cancellation of Newsmax, the second of its three center-right networks, sparked outrage and threats of national investigations. “Do you really want to go in front of the House Oversight Committee?” asked the committee’s chairman, Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.). “This is something the 26 Republicans on the committee are very passionate about.”
“This decision may be the latest example of big business suppressing politically disfavored speech at the behest of liberal Democrats,” wrote Cruz and fellow senators Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), and Mike Lee (R-Utah) on February 1.
Cruz and Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) praised the agreement that saw Newsmax broadcast its message into more American homes. “Having Newsmax back on the air is a victory for free speech over powerful corporations that want to put their thumbs on the scale of the national conversation,” said the senator. “Our democracy’s health depends on free speech,” added Cruz, one of the network’s highest-profile supporters, who pledged “to stop the silencing of conservatives whether it occurs with Big Media or Big Tech.”
Abbott said he was “proud to have helped facilitate this pivotal business renewal” on Wednesday night, without specifying his role. “Efforts to silence conservative viewpoints are antithetical to the very principles our founding fathers wrote in our Constitution,” Abbott continued. This agreement will help “maintain our nation’s position as a beacon of freedom.”
“Conservatives deserve a voice,” declared Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.). West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R), who had asked for DirecTV to reinstate both Newsmax and OAN, agreed the decision would allow viewers “to hear about the issues of the day from all sides.” Rep. Alex Mooney (R-W.Va.) simply called the announcement, “Great news!”
In a statement announcing the deal this week, Newsmax CEO Chris Ruddy said his network “recognizes and appreciates that DirecTV clearly supports diverse voices, including conservative ones,” noting that “DirecTV helped give Newsmax its start nearly a decade ago.”
The financial terms of the settlement have not been released.
DirecTV has an estimated 13.3 million subscribers, according to Fitch Ratings. Across its numerous platforms, Newsmax says it reaches a potential audience of 40-50 million households.
Ben Johnson is senior reporter and editor at The Washington Stand.