from the traditional-conservative-values dept
Last January DirecTV finally decided to kick fantasy and conspiracy channel One America News (OAN) off of their satellite TV lineup, likely dooming the “news” channel. It’s a channel relatively few people watch, and the company simply didn’t figure the controversy to income ratio was worth it, so DirecTV simply didn’t renew OAN’s carriage agreement when the time came.
OAN, of course, quickly tried to spin itself as a victim of censorship, first by attacking a Black AT&T board member in “news” coverage that pretended DirecTV’s business decision was politically and racially motivated. And last week, the company filed a lawsuit claiming that DirecTV was leveraging its “unchecked influence” to stifle a “family-run business”:
“This is an action to redress the unchecked influence and power that Defendants have wielded in an attempt to unlawfully destroy an independent, family-run business and impede the right of American television viewers to watch the news media channels and programs of their choice.”
Trying to claim DirecTV, which itself is losing subscribers hand over fist to streaming, has “unchecked influence and power” is fairly amusing. In reality, DirecTV made a fairly boring business decision to not renew a channel very few people, despite all the sound and fury, actually watch:
Now Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has, for some bizarre reason, injected himself into the dispute. In a letter (pdf), Paxton and the GOP AGs of Mississippi, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, and South Carolina demand DirecTV renew its carriage agreement with OAN, and insist the decision to kick the conspiracy channel to the curb is “clearly viewpoint discrimination and an attempt to silence conservative voices”:
“My fellow attorneys general and I strongly recommend that you reconsider your present course and renew your contract with OAN in April. Your failure to do so will not only cause you to lose millions of dollars in business, but also drive many millions of Americans to simply cancel your services outright, as President Trump and other leading figures have already called for.
I’m old enough to remember that a core GOP platform used to be that government shouldn’t involve itself in routine business decisions without exceptional cause. Yet here, six AGs took the time to take DirecTV to task simply for booting a channel from its lineup that not many people watched.
As with most modern GOP claims of this type, it’s largely performative victimization porn to keep the base angry. What the Trump GOP routinely calls “censorship” is usually just baseline levels of accountability for dumb behavior (like, say, falsely claiming in “news reports” that COVID was created in a South Carolina lab). The real goal here, as it is with the Section 230 fracas, is really to mandate that the internet and cable programming be inundated with alternative reality propaganda favorable to the GOP.
As we’ve noted previously, while AT&T originally funded and came up with the idea for OAN, the company was forced to spin DirecTV off in partnership with TPG Capital, which was likely less interested in catering to conspiratorial GOP gibberish — at least when it wasn’t making them money. Cable and broadcast executives will air anything that makes money if they can legally get away with it.
Even if this was a viewpoint-based decision by DirecTV, there’s absolutely nothing requiring that DirecTV maintain anything resembling “viewpoint neutrality.” There’s just no foundation for any complaint here. There’s nothing illegal. Again, it was a boring business decision made because the channel wasn’t making DirecTV money in ratio with the headaches (like the lawsuits over bogus claims of election fraud).
Paxton and his friends are clearly upset that the ongoing effort to create an entire alternate reality news ecosystem saw a minor setback with OAN being dumped from DirecTV, relegating the channel out of the mainstream and back into a highly competitive scrum of conspiratorial influencers and other gibberish-spewing Trump orbit hopefuls.
Of course, the Trump base will never see alternative viewpoints pointing out Paxton’s involvement here is self-serving, performative bullshit, which is the entire point of the propaganda ecosystem folks like Trump and Paxton are hoping to embolden and protect as they foist their authoritarianism on the planet.