Lawmakers and Faith Leaders Speak Out in Support of NEWSMAX, Free Speech

AT&T's DirecTV canceled NEWSMAX, saying that they were cutting costs.

By Nancy Flory Published on February 7, 2023

AT&T’s DirecTV canceled NEWSMAX, the fourth-highest rated news cable channel in the U.S. They said it was to save money — but that is demonstrably false, Founder and CEO for NEWSMAX, Chris Ruddy, told The Stream. Ruddy believes it’s an act of political censorship.

The highly-rated news cable channel reaches 25 million Americans regularly, according to Nielson. “[W]e definitely are irritating a lot of people in the liberal establishment. The House Democrats in 2021 wrote a letter to AT&T and other cable systems asking that One America (OAN), NEWSMAX and Fox News be deplatformed. They essentially said we were spreading misinformation.”

And cutting costs, regardless of what DirecTV says, wasn’t the reason, either. 

“We have asked for a very modest little cable license fee of about $1 [per subscriber] a year. And they said that we were not eligible for any fees, even though every other cable channel pretty much gets cable fees. And from what we can see, they have 22 liberal news channels and they all get paid fees. But they said NEWSMAX was not eligible for a fee. … CNN gets $14 [per subscriber] a year from DirecTV.”

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Last year, DirecTV made $2.7 billion in profits, according to Ruddy. “So, we believe that AT&T and DirecTV are actively causing us great harm by trying to censor us.”

Support for NEWSMAX

Troy A. Miller is the president and CEO of National Religious Broadcasters organization, “the world’s largest gathering of Christian communicators and ministry professionals,” according to NRB’s website. NEWSMAX is a member of the NRB. Miller told The Stream that DirecTV’s canceling NEWSMAX is a “troubling interference in the diversity of programming.” He continued: 

Millions of DirecTV customers saw yet another high-profile conservative network that airs faith-friendly content yanked from the lineup, and that audience sector will understandably feel that the views with which they align are being censored.

But let’s not forget: this move by DirecTV was preceded by a 2021 letter from two lawmakers holding senior positions on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, whose jurisdiction includes the cable industry, ordering DirecTV to justify its “moral” and “ethical” reasoning if it continued to carry NEWSMAX, Fox, and OAN. Two of those networks ultimately were not renewed. This looks a lot like members of Congress using their positions of authority to put their thumb on the scale in business decisions.

Support by Lawmakers

Some political leaders are also stepping forward to support NEWSMAX and call for change. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said that he thinks NEWSMAX’s cancellation is “very concerning,” and is promising hearings. “It really comes down to a free speech matter,” McCarthy told the network, “and Newsmax should never be punished simply because they’re a conservative news outlet.”

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said AT&T and DirecTV are targeting NEWSMAX and called for an investigation into the matter.

Ted Cruz said AT&T is engaging in “political discrimination” by canceling NEWSMAX and OAN.

Support by Others

Some faith leaders are getting involved as well. Pastor Jack Hibbs of Calvary Chapel Chino Hills in California is urging people to call AT&T and DirecTV and ask them to carry NEWSMAX.

It’s for a good reason that Hibbs is speaking out on this. NEWSMAX covers a lot of events related to religious conferences and groups. “We believe that Christianity is a very important part of American society and culture and history. That it should be covered as news,” said Ruddy. It’s typical for NEWSMAX to carry religious broadcasting. “We’ll have religious ministers on talking about public policy, about faith issues all the time. So we think that’s important.”

Miller added that he hopes DirecTV will take note of the “broad-based and immediate reaction” to the outpouring of support by lawmakers and religious leaders.

It’s important to support NEWSMAX because “the precedent this sets for censorship via murky, corporate programming decisions that just don’t add up from a business perspective. The NRB exists to maintain access for Christian communicators, and we consider this a worthy fight.”

What People Can Do

If people no longer wish to watch DirecTV they should cancel the service, said Ruddy. Otherwise, contact AT&T and DirecTV and demand to have NEWSMAX brought back to the cable system.

Continuing the Fight

Miller and NRB will continue to stand with NEWSMAX, and “urge DirecTV to come back to the table and address their customers’ concerns, and raise alarms about the information interference by lawmakers that preceded this decision.”

As for NEWSMAX, they’ll continue to fight to bring news to those who want it, said Ruddy. “We’re going to continue to grow. We’re going to continue to fight. We’re going to let the country know what AT&T and DirecTV did to us.” 


Nancy Flory, Ph.D., is a senior editor at The Stream. You can follow her @NancyFlory3, and follow The Stream @Streamdotorg.

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