Newsmax’s brawl with satellite cable provider DirecTV has spilled over onto K Street.
The conservative news channel, which disappeared from DirecTV’s airwaves in January amid a dispute over fees paid to carriers, has enlisted former Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) and longtime GOP aide Tommy Andrews of Squire Patton Boggs to escalate its fight in Washington, according to newly filed lobbying disclosures.
Kingston and Andrews, a former aide to ex-House Speakers Paul Ryan and John Boehner and former President Donald Trump, will lobby specifically on the spat with DirecTV, as well as general “conservative censorship,” according to the lobbying filing.
Newsmax, which has peddled falsehoods about the legitimacy of the 2020 election, has accused DirecTV of removing the network from its lineup for its conservative views. “This is a blatant act of political discrimination and censorship against Newsmax,” the network’s CEO, Christopher Ruddy, said in a January post on its websiteafter losing access to DirecTV’s roughly 13 million customers.
DirecTV has said the decision to drop Newsmax was purely financial, stemming from Newsmax’s demands that it pay “tens of millions of dollars in licensing fees” to carry the channel when it is available for free on other streaming platforms. The cable provider also maintains it wants Newsmax to return to its air.
Republicans have rallied to Newsmax’s side with calls to boycott both DirecTV and its parent company, AT&T, and sought to leverage the investigative heft of Congress to squeeze both businesses.
Last month, a group of Republican senators demanded answers from DirecTV executives about the decision to drop Newsmax. They also questioned whether the move resulted from pressure from Democrats and the administration, pointing to previous calls from House Democrats for cable providers to drop conservative channels like Newsmax and One America News, which DirecTV dropped last year.
DirecTV has begun to play defense of its own, launching a website called “thetvtruth.com” to push back on censorship accusations while highlighting its other conservative offerings like Fox Nation and a newly launched conservative channel featuring right-wing celebrities like Bill O’Reilly and Dana Loesch.
In a follow-up response Tuesday to the GOP senators’ letter, DirecTV called the censorship allegations “disingenuous” and accused the channel of seeking to inflate its low ratings.
DirecTV also pointed out that this was not its first carriage dispute with Newsmax, with the channel leaving its airwaves for about eight months in 2017.
“Notably, we are not aware of any Member of Congress or conservative activist at that time accusing DIRECTV of censoring or deplatforming Newsmax. It was clearly understood then for what it is now: a business negotiation,” wrote Michael Hartman, the company’s general counsel. “Except now, Newsmax is trying to inject an unfounded political argument into a business dispute.”
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