OAN Throws A Hissy Fit After Being Axed By AT&T, DirecTV

from the good-luck-with-that dept

Last week, we noted how AT&T-owned DirecTV had decided to axe OAN, the conspiracy and fantasy channel, from its cable lineup. The decision came just three months or so after a blockbuster report showed that AT&T not only helped fund and set up the conspiracy theory spewing “news” outlet, but it came up with the idea. OAN has been notorious for spreading false claims ranging from non-existent election fraud to the false claim that COVID was developed in a North Carolina lab as part of a government plot.

Of course things have shifted dramatically for AT&T since OAN’s creation several years ago. The company’s $200 billion acquisitions of DirecTV and Time Warner flamed out spectacularly, forcing it to sell much of the assets to recoup its massive debt load as it backed away from its TV and video advertising ambitions and refocused on telecom. That included selling off DirecTV into a new joint venture with private equity firm TPG Capital, which now has a 30 percent stake.

So the recent decision to axe the channel from the DirecTV lineup likely had more to do with TPG Capital not wanting to be associated with the venture than AT&T (whose Dallas-based executives remain largely cozy with insurrectionists and right-wing conspiracy theorists). But the channel apparently thought attacking AT&T board members would be their best path forward, with channel hosts now asking viewers to “find dirt” on AT&T board member William Kennard:

“Besides begging OAN viewers to ?blow up? AT&T?s phone lines with demands that they keep his channel, Ball also called on them to send them any salacious information about the conglomerate?s chairman.

?If you have any dirt on Mr. Kennard, I?d love to see it and put it on this program,? the Real America host exclaimed.

?You bring me concrete evidence of whatever it may be: cheating on his taxes, cheating on his wife, saying racial slurs against white people,? Ball added, unsubtly referencing the fact that Kennard is Black. ?Whatever it may be. Find it for me. Bring it, and we will air it.”

Granted there are plenty of executives and board members at AT&T that OAN could have singled out. But Kennard is not only Black (some race-baiting motivation for the target audience), he’s a Democrat who was Federal Communications Commission chairman during the Clinton administration (letting them pretend they’re the victim of partisan politics). That’s a far more compelling narrative than the truth, which was that AT&T’s new partner TPG Capital likely didn’t want the brand association or legal liability OAN creates, especially for a company like DirecTV that has lots of other things to worry about (like surviving the streaming revolution).

OAN is obviously panicked because while the channel is still carried on a few providers (like Verizon’s FiOS TV), DirecTV made up the vast, vast majority of its outreach footprint, giving it perceived legitimacy as a “news” organization. Without a sugar daddy like AT&T propping up the organization with favorable carriage deals, the “news channel” is forced to heavily rely on the Internet for distribution, leaving it mired in a highly competitive scrum of conspiratorial influencers and other gibberish spewing Trump orbit hopefuls.


Companies: at&t, directv, oan

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That One Guy (profile) says:

Thanks for validating the decision there OAN

Doing the equivalent of backhanding your boss in an attempt to keep your job, let’s see how well that works out for them shall we?

Nothing says ‘Dropping this channel was a long-overdue good idea and keeping it would be a horrible one no matter how many nujobs call in’ quite like those running it making an open offer that if anyone wants to share ‘dirt’ on a black democrat member of the parent company that funded and created the channel they’ll give it as much air time as they can manage as petty revenge.

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David says:

Re: Thanks for validating the decision there OAN

Sort of the textbook meaning of toxic. Don’t come near them or you’ll come to regret it.

And, like with toxic relations, there is really only one way to sensibly proceed: cut your losses and cut your ties. Everything else means more damage down the road.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Thanks for validating the decision there OAN

New part owner: “This channel is full of racists conspiracy theorists claiming their excrement is ‘news’. Pull the plug”

OAN: “Quick, get me dirt on the Black guy. Real or imagined!”

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PaulT (profile) says:

"Besides begging OAN viewers to “blow up” AT&T’s phone lines with demands that they keep his channel, Ball also called on them to send them any salacious information about the conglomerate’s chairman."

I’m no legal expert, but isn’t soliciting blackmail information some kind of crime? At the very least it would surely ensure that any subsequent backtracking on the deal would be open to close investigation in case such blackmail had taken place?

I can’t imagine that TPG would be swayed in its decision even if the blackmail were successful and that probably reduces any power AT&T execs would have directly, but it takes a certain type of stupidity to say "I will publicly announce my intention to commit crimes in order to reverse a decision", even if they were going after the person who made the decision.

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re:

it takes a certain type of stupidity to say "I will publicly announce my intention to commit crimes in order to reverse a decision"

Even Trump’s various cronies didn’t talk publicly about their unethical, immoral, and (probably) illegal plans to stop the election certification and strike down American democracy. OANN is, as an entity, provably dumber than literal seditionist traitors.

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David says:

Re: Re: Re:

The "alternate elector" slates met quite openly in order to create their alternative facts for the sake of having Mike Pence overturn the election.

I really don’t consider Mike Pence a highlight of the previous administration, but as they say: in the end the Trumpists were one Vice President short of a coup.

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That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

It’s certainly reprehensible and serves as another great reason to ditch them as soon as legally possible but I don’t think it raises to the level of blackmail as the stated goal isn’t to threaten to release the information unless AT&T/DirectTV changes their minds but to release it regardless as petty revenge.

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PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

True, though the request for such information always implies a blackmail threat until such time as it’s actually released (after all, blackmail is simply saying "give me what I want or I will release this"). Again, not being a legal expert I’m not sure, but I’d be wary of the idea that blackmail isn’t going to be assumed even if you’re going for the petty revenge angle, especially as it’s your stated intention to reverse a business decision (how many execs are going to do this for you after you’re publicly embarrassed them?).

I suppose that any actual crime would depend on this aspect and a question what the information was and how it was gathered (i.e. if it was already publicly known information or something compiled for the requested purpose). But, it’s not a good look.

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That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

It wouldn’t surprise me if soliciting that sort of information for the express purpose of trying to destroy someone’s reputation runs afoul of some law, and as for blackmail after their little outburst if they are stupid enough to go down that road(and I wouldn’t put it past them) having made a public declaration like they did the case would likely write itself.

Whatever the case though it is very much not a good look, no, though I imagine it’s not likely to change any minds as those that follow the channel will just cheer on their attempts to stick it to the libs and those that don’t care for it aren’t likely to have their opinion of the channel lowered from this stunt, with funnily enough the only group likely to actually be impacted by this are the very companies they’re trying to pressure to keep the channel, as backing down after this would look real bad for AT&T/DirecTV.

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2

It wouldn’t surprise me if soliciting that sort of information for the express purpose of trying to destroy someone’s reputation runs afoul of some law

Seems more like extortion than blackmail to me, but what do I know⁠—my law knowledge mainly comes from Jack McCoy. ????

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

It wouldn’t surprise me if soliciting that sort of information for the express purpose of trying to destroy someone’s reputation runs afoul of some law

I have my doubts, if only because this is pretty much exactly what journalists do normally. While we feel that this is wrong because OAN is a garbage organization full of garbage people… when other journalists solicit information about Johnson attending parties during national lockdowns, or a different Johnson sending the mentally handicapped to die in the jungle, it’s perfectly all right.

And we can’t exactly say, "oh, well you just really hate the person you’re soliciting information about so it’s not ok anymore." Because, well, really hating people who do terrible things is pretty normal. Lots of journalism is done specifically in the hope of destroying the people and organizations involved. This is actually rather tame, in comparison.

Though it is interesting that Trump used exactly that excuse several times to dismiss revelations about his administration. What goes around comes around, I guess.

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sumgai (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Lots of yellow dog journalism is done specifically in the hope of destroying the people and organizations….

FTFY.

There’s a pretty large difference between "finding the facts that have been hidden from the public", and "asking for any embarrassing sleaze on someone". Journalists don’t publicly beg for input of the most damaging kind, they investigate and search for items of public interest. Yellow dog journalism is exactly what OAN is attempting here, and it never works out as intended.

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3

this is pretty much exactly what journalists do normally

Sorry, when was the last time that you heard about CNN openly asking its entire viewership for salacious information about public figures with a desperate plea spoken during a major primetime broadcast?

Lostinlodos (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

It isn’t a “sides” thing so much as just normal anger and rage.
Investigative journalism is based on digging up dirt.

As far as ‘who else’… well rachel maddow did it quite a bit in the past. I used to listen to her during the Obama era, as she was a one-sided hit-girl that supported my presidential choice.
… that and her radio show was actually funny, bags of crap jokes and all.

Digging up dirt is what journalism is. Otherwise it’s either News or commentary.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

"As far as ‘who else’… well rachel maddow did it quite a bit in the past. I used to listen to her during the Obama era, as she was a one-sided hit-girl that supported my presidential choice."

I still can’t fathom how someone could actually support Obama’s policies then go for Trump with his vastly opposed policies (even if you were naive enough to believe he’d get anything other than a casual grift done). Especially coming into the second term with all the failures and corruption of the first term being so obvious and no longer having the Clinton boogeyman to scare you.

But, let’s say you’re correct, – so what? The problem being discussed is not political opinions, it’s actual lies. I don’t take much notice of Maddow, but one case I’m aware of is that OANN complained about her claims about them being paid propaganda and they had to pay $250k in costs.

"Digging up dirt is what journalism is."

Reporting facts is what journalism is, and one part of that is that you have to verify that they’re true. I have very few interactions with MSNBC/CNN in general, but my experience with them vs. OANN and similar outlets is that at least they attempt to do that on occasion. OANN are likely not long for this world, not because they didn’t get a contract renewed, but because they lied in ways that cause material harm to people who are suing them.

I look forward to whatever the next thread is that you participate in, which will probably be characterised by you claiming that the next journalist digging up dirt is a paid member of the Democratic party so they should be ignored for reason.

Lostinlodos (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Re:

I still can’t fathom how someone could actually support Obama’s policies then go for Trump with his vastly opposed policies

It’s quite easy. For what I actual care about anyway.
Obama was an outsider. Not a seasoned Washington boot licker.

He offered to fix the border/immigration issues.
End the wars.
Adjust trade treaties
Fix healthcare.

Let’s see, Trump was an out, not a seasoned Washington boot licker.

He offered to fix the border/immigration issues.
End the wars.
Adjust trade treaties
Fix healthcare.

With the added bonus of also supporting gun rights.

And the reason I voted for Trump twice is the same reason I voted for Obama twice.
I watched the bureaucracy of entrenched politicians get in his way. In congress and in courts.

The rest of the platform is generally not of much interest to me.

…:
Oh, and I’ve never spat at any site that put out legitimate dirt. I think it’s a good thing.
I judge the material based on the evidence. Not who supplies it.

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sumgai (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Such action may, or may not, rise to a level of criminal intent, but it certainly sits at the civil level of defamation, or threat thereof. (And that threat gets into blackmail territory, which is unlawful.) I’m fairly certain that AT&T’s lawyers won’t hesitate for a second to bring in some outside counsel that is well experienced in defamation/slander law. Just to raise the cost of pursuing the case, said costs to be shifted to the defense when they lose…. big time. "Your Honor, we’re business lawyers, we know nothing of civil law, so we had to bring in these other attorneys."

tl;dr:

"Oh, you didn’t like us exercising our discretion to make sound fiduciary decisions, as required by both law and our stockholders? Well sparky, you’re going to just love our legal bills, trust us."

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re:

why don’t they throw all their eggs into direct streaming and encourage people to dump traditional media distribution entirely?

Because that wouldn’t give them the certainty of both a lucrative (enough) contract with a major media operation like DirecTV and the potential reach of said conglomerate’s satellite TV offering. From what I understand, the DirecTV deal was the primary tentpole of the OANN circus⁠—and since that deal will be breaking down soon, OANN may soon lack the funding necessary to stay on the air.

I believe they could find more than a few people willing to pay for an OANN subscription. But I don’t believe they could find enough to keep the network running on their own. OANN higher-ups know the end of the DirecTV deal is likely the end of OANN⁠—and they’re doing this extortionist bullshit to at least delay the inevitable.

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That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Why does OAN care?

It’s about the reach, ease of access, and prestige. If people have to come to them rather than having their channel part of a package and something you can stumble upon then the number of people who will bother is going to be a lot smaller, and by going it on their own they lose the reputation of being on a major network and become just another group of people with an online show that they threw together.

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Bloof (profile) says:

‘Cancel culture is bad! Businesses should be free to do anything they choose for profit! Also a business chose not to give us free money because of the things we’ve said and done, send us all the gossip you can about a board member so we can weaponise it and cancel them!’

Right wing consistency in action, folks.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

It’s not hypocrisy because right-wing morality is based on actors, not actions.

If they or someone they personally like for whatever reason does a thing, then it’s a good thing because a good person did it. If someone they personally dislike for whatever reason does the same thing, or does it to someone they personally like, then it’s a bad thing because a bad person did it.

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sumgai (profile) says:

Re: "find dirt"

Sorry, I find no "innocence" in willful ignorance of the reality around one’s self. A person may be good in the traditional sense of the word, but if they simply parrot crap, then they have failed to exercise discretion, and that’s exactly the same thing as planning to be an asshole.

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restless94110 (profile) says:

A What?

A hissy fit? So, when your internet provider shuts you down because they don’t like what you say will you be throwing a "hissy" fit? Is that what you will call it when you are de-platformed by the monopolies?

When you don’t like what an organization says you love it when they are shut down. It’s a private business!!! you scream. The completely correct analogy that these services are just like you ordering a phone line for your house–the phone company has no business monitoring what you say on your line. It’s apparently beyond your comprehension.

De-platforming for any reason ever is un-American. Stop crowing about some group you don’t agree with and loving that they are shut down and muzzled.

They coming for you one day.

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Samuel Abram (profile) says:

Re: A What?

So, when your internet provider shuts you down because they don’t like what you say will you be throwing a "hissy" fit?

Because a Satellite TV provider refusing to carry your station anymore is exactly like an ISP cutting your internet access. You suck at analogies.

The completely correct analogy that these services are just like you ordering a phone line for your house–the phone company has no business monitoring what you say on your line.

OAN is still available on Verizon FIOS. You’re confusing speech with reach. I repeat, you suck at analogies.

De-platforming for any reason ever is un-American.

Dude, I’m so old I remember when the rapper Ludacris had a Pepsi commercial cancelled and was replaced with the Osbournes due to a campaign by BIll O’Reilly. I’m so old, I remember when various web sites and forums around the internet banned people from their web sites and forums. I’m so old I remember spammers getting the boot from Discord servers.

Dude, please. You don’t just suck at analogies, you just suck, period.

They coming for you one day.

If Shiva Ayyadurai is any indication, they tried that and failed.

It bears repeating: restless94110, you fucking suck.

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PaulT (profile) says:

Re: A What?

"Is that what you will call it when you are de-platformed by the monopolies?"

1) There are no monopolies in the social media space (which is what I suspect you’re referring to). There’s plenty of choice, and most people use multiple services, which immediately debunks your claim of monopoly.

2) I have nothing to say on social media that can’t be said elsewhere. Social media is handy for reaching a bunch of people in both directions, but I can’t think of a single thing I could use it for

3) Ive been on social media since the concept was first imagine and I have never been close to being "de-platformed", not even a single time-out. This is because I’m thoughtful with what I say and I’m not an asshole. If you find yourself being kicked off every platform and have to resort to other communication methods, maybe the problem isn’t the platforms?

This is your basic problem. You’re being told you’re an asshole over and over again and facing consequences for being an asshole. Yet, your assholish nature doesn’t allow you to understand that you are indeed the asshole.

"The completely correct analogy that these services are just like you ordering a phone line for your house–the phone company has no business monitoring what you say on your line"

Of course, it’s a completely dumb analogy that only someone as dishonest as you could even consider taking seriously. The only things being monitored are public broadcasts, and the company you’re associating your name with has every right to watch the same broadcasts as their other customers can, as well as other members of the general public who they would like to convince to become paying customers.

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PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: A What?

"2) I have nothing to say on social media that can’t be said elsewhere. Social media is handy for reaching a bunch of people in both directions, but I can’t think of a single thing I could use it for"

Ah, just noticed the end was cut off there. I meant to say – I can’t think of a single thing I could use it for that would be impossible to do without it. Social media is a handy, convenient tool that potentially frees me of some groundwork, but it doesn’t actually enable anything that can’t be done with other tools. The only thing that’s possible is that it makes reaching a mass audience more difficult without it, but nobody has a right to a mass audience.

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John85851 (profile) says:

Two points

First, I’m sure the executives at ONN know their days are numbered, but they need to "do something" to show their base that they’re going something to get back at those nasty liberals trying to silence them. In their minds, they’re being "patriots" standing up for their right to free speech.

Second, some people have commented about how it’s not a good idea to openly talk about committing crimes. No offense, but where have you been for the last few years?
The right-wing playbook goes something like this: first, they say it’s not a crime, then they say that if it was a crime, they should be able to get away with it, but then if they’re arresed, then Trump will pardon them.

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Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Two points

"The right-wing playbook goes something like this: first, they say it’s not a crime, then they say that if it was a crime, they should be able to get away with it, but then if they’re arresed, then Trump will pardon them."

..and in none of the steps does it filter in that for Trump to finally pardon them other people have to believe he’s still the president.

You know, I wish every malicious asshole was that casually self-destructive.

I’m thinking that if they do manage to take house and senate this year and finagle Trump into the white house in 24 the remaining 75% of the US not on their side won’t know how to look at themselves in the mirror ever after. The nation will have been overthrown by a cadre of clown less attached to factual reality than Kim Jong-Un’s cult.

ECA (profile) says:

"blockbuster report showed that AT&T not only helped fund and set up the conspiracy theory spewing "news" outlet, but it came up with the idea. "

Isnt that interesting.
Creating a 3rd party to standout and take the blame.
So many corps have done this Crap, insted of standing up themselves.
There are a few reasons this is happening. AND #1, is to pull out the groups in the nation, to let them gather in a few places, and get allot of pictures of those people.
Its a radical trap.
Other reasons could be to gauge the temperature of the nation, and Which direction the Company Could go.
Its like a Major news corp. That creates Alt newspapers. Just to see Which ways to go, or lean the company. Many of which would disappear if There werent enough subscriptions.
This is a Shotgun type way to find out things, but also can lead to underground newspapers.

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Toom1275 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I’m reminded of these observations from the Splinters of our Discontent article:

One of the more striking features of the contemporary conservative movement is the extent to which it has been moving toward epistemic closure. Reality is defined by a multimedia array of interconnected and cross promoting conservative blogs, radio programs, magazines, and of course, Fox News. Whatever conflicts with that reality can be dismissed out of hand because it comes from the liberal media, and is therefore ipso facto not to be trusted. (How do you know they’re liberal? Well, they disagree with the conservative media!) This epistemic closure can be a source of solidarity and energy, but it also renders the conservative media ecosystem fragile."

Network Propaganda’s data regarding the right-wing media ecosystem—that it’s insular, prefers confirmation of identity and loyalty rather than self-correction, demonizes perceived opponents, and resists disconfirmation of its favored narratives—map well to social-science political-communication theorists Kathleen Hall Jamieson and Joseph Capella’s 2008 book, Echo Chamber: Rush Limbaugh And The Rise Of Conservative Media. In that book, Jamieson and Capella outlined how, as they put it, "these conservative media create a self-protective enclave hospitable to conservative beliefs." As a consequence, they write:

"[t]his safe haven reinforces conservative values and dispositions, holds Republican candidates and leaders accountable to conservative ideals, tightens their audience’s ties to the Republican Party, and distances listeners, readers, and viewers from ‘liberals," in general, and Democrats, in particular. It also enwraps them in a world in which facts supportive of Democratic claims are contested and those consistent with conservative ones championed."

We also see this in any bot spouting off that MSNBCNN or WaPo can’t be trusted for no other reason than projection and other baseless accusations from the extreme Right.

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PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

"any bot spouting off that MSNBCNN or WaPo can’t be trusted"

What’s funny is that all these "independent thinkers" always react with that same claim as if it matters. Erm, OK, but the specific person you’re speaking to never uses those sources, what now? They never have an answer, it’s always weak projection and whataboutism as if there’s no middle ground between echo chambers, even if there is an echo chamber on "both sides" (and don’t confuse them with facts about how there’s many more than 2 sides – unless they’re cosplaying libertarian to pretend to be above it all, they’re never interested in nuance).

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