Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is the latest to express alarm over broadcaster DirecTV’s decision to drop conservative channel Newsmax, a move he criticized as an “arbitrary use of power.”
DirecTV removed the network overnight on Jan. 24 after its contract with Newsmax expired, blocking an estimated more than 13 million customer base from seeing the channel, and marking the second time in a year that the television provider cut a conservative outlet from its lineup.
Gingrich, a contributor to The Epoch Times, said he considered the act “terrible.”
“I think this is the kind of arbitrary use of power that people want to be really looking at. I don’t understand how AT&T can just censor a network,” he said in an interview. DirecTV is owned by AT&T and asset firm TPG Capital.
DirecTV on Wednesday said that Newsmax’s demand for rate increases would have led to price hikes for customers, while noting that anyone can watch the network for free by going to NewsmaxTV.com and streaming platforms, such as Roku and Google Play.
But this line of reasoning, to Gingrich, was unpersuasive.
“It’s helpful to have many news outlets, and I would be as opposed to dropping MSNBC or dropping CNN as to dropping Newsmax,” he said.
With another conservative network, One America News (OAN) network, similarly canceled by DirecTV last April, the removal seems “a lot more about ideology, not about markets,” he added.
Newsmax on Wednesday dismissed DirecTV’s claims that the decision was a mere fee dispute.
“This is a blatant act of political discrimination and censorship against Newsmax,” Christopher Ruddy, CEO of Newsmax said in a statement. “The most extreme liberal channels, even with tiny ratings, get fees from AT&T’s DirecTV, but Newsmax and OAN need to be deplatformed.”
Dozens of Republican lawmakers had earlier written to DirecTV urging the company to reverse its stance.
“If Newsmax is removed from DirecTV, in less than a year House Republicans will have lost two of the three cable news channels that reach conservative voters on a platform that primarily serves conservative-leaning areas of the country,” stated a Jan. 20 letter by Rep. Wesley Hunt (R-Texas) and 41 colleagues.
A spokesperson for AT&T said “DIRECTV is a separate company managed by its own board and leadership team” and directed The Epoch Times to DirecTV for inquiries. DirecTV didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Reporting from The Epoch Times.