At face value, the dispute between DirecTV and Newsmax seems like the sort of corporate clash that occasionally arises in the telecommunications industry. The provider and the cable channel have a disagreement over funding, so the former decided this week to cut ties with the latter.
The Daily Beast ran a report on the conflict this week, noting that, at least according to DirecTV, the provider didn’t actually want to break up with the far-right channel, but since Newsmax content is available for free in a variety of ways, the channel’s “demands for rate increases” led DirecTV to walk away.
Newsmax — an unabashedly conservative channel that has run into some legal trouble over its promotion of election conspiracy theories — has a competing version of events, which, again, is not uncommon in telecommunications disputes like these.
Ordinarily, we’d expect to see executives and their teams try to work out some kind of agreement. Maybe they’d reach a deal, maybe not, but either way, it’d be a corporate resolution.
For congressional Republicans, however, this is a political matter requiring governmental attention. As my MSNBC colleague Ja’han Jones explained:
GOP lawmakers are up in arms that DirecTV might pull the plug on a major source of right-wing disinformation, and they’re trying to throw their weight around to stop it. In a letter late last week, more than 40 Republicans decried the possibility that DirecTV would no longer offer Newsmax — the archconservative, Trump-loving network known for spreading lies.
Over the course of the last few days, the GOP’s concerns have intensified. Republican Rep. Mary Miller of Illinois characterized DirecTV’s decision as “an attack on members of Congress,” and she didn’t appear to be kidding. There were related complaints from Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik of New York.
Republican Rep. Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey went so far as to suggest such business disputes are generally only found in “authoritarian regimes,” which was every bit as odd as it seemed.
What’s more, we’re not just talking about partisan chest thumping: A surprising number of GOP lawmakers this week have raised the prospect of congressional hearings into the matter.
The apoplexy wasn’t limited to Capitol Hill. From his Mar-a-Lago perch, Donald Trump condemned the move as a “big blow to the Republican Party” — he apparently didn’t feel the need to maintain the pretense that Newsmax is an independent journalistic entity — “and to America itself.”
The former president, who added that he will boycott DirecTV and its AT&T corporate parent, went on to encourage the provider to drop news organizations he doesn’t like, including my employer. The Republican concluded that the “REPUBLICAN PARTY DEMANDS” Newsmax’s return to DirecTV’s lineup.
The GOP hysteria isn’t just misplaced, it’s also increasingly weird for a party that claims to care about free-market principles. We’re talking about a dispute over money between two companies. This isn’t a conspiracy; it’s capitalism.
Since when does the Republican Party put its media interests above free enterprise? Evidently, the answer is now.