The Wall Street Journal lived up to its reputation as a defender of big corporate interests, including its own, when it scolded Congress for questioning AT&T DirecTV's censorship of Newsmax.
Last week a Journal editorial headlined "The Right's Wrong Attack on DirecTV Over Newsmax," claiming the removal of Newsmax from DirecTV had nothing to do with censorship, but was only about a "carriage fee" dispute.
The Journal editorial failed to mention some important facts.
First, the dispute is not over a fee price. AT&T, the 70% owner of DirecTV, is claiming Newsmax should get zero fees while all other U.S. cable news channels get them. Newsmax, the fourth highest-rated cable news channel, according to Nielsen, believes it is being discriminated against.
Importantly, the Journal editorial failed to disclose that one shareholder, Rupert Murdoch, controls both it and Fox News, its sister company.
As recent disclosures in the Dominion lawsuit revealed, Newsmax is a competitor to Fox. In 2020, Murdoch sent an email to Fox's CEO expressing serious concern about the rise of Newsmax and said the network needed to be "watched."
We understand Fox wants to be the only news source for right-of-center cable viewers, but that is not good for the GOP, democracy, or good competition.
Still, with such a serious conflict of interest, we thought the WSJ would disclose it. But they did not.
The WSJ editorial also forgot to mention that when Fox News had its own major carriage dispute with satellite provider DISH, the matter was never an issue for them.
In 2014, DISH removed Fox News from 14 million homes for almost six weeks. Fox counter-attacked with an aggressive campaign decrying what it called DISH's political "censorship."
Fox promoted stories linking DISH to Democrats and even got strong support from Congressional Republicans that wanted the network brought back.
Fox then ran television ads with prime-time hosts Megyn Kelly and Bill O'Reilly slamming DISH. In one ad, O'Reilly tells the public "enough is enough," claims Dish is "censoring what you see," and urges viewers to cancel the service.
According to the BBC, Fox's cancel campaign worked, with about 90,000 DISH subscribers quitting the service. Fox News was returned to DISH.
Clearly, the WSJ is now suffering from selective corporate amnesia about their own network's censorship campaign.
And here is another one they forgot. The recent WSJ editorial belittled Newsmax for citing a 2021 letter by House Democrats, specifically Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., and former Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Calif., calling for AT&T to deplatform Fox News, Newsmax, and OAN.
"A letter from two Democratic Congress Members, which was also sent to other TV providers, doesn't add up to a vast leftwing conspiracy," the Journal editorial barked.
But the Journal seems to have forgotten that both its own editorial page and Fox News were screaming about this "censorship" effort by the Democrats.
The Journal's editorial columnist Kimberley Strassel on Feb. 25, 2021 tore into the House Democrats, saying the letter from ranking Democrats Eshoo and McNerney was not a suggestive letter, but "an order" for censorship.
Strassel said the left was trying to "to bully cable companies" into dropping conservative networks, including Fox, Newsmax, and OAN.
She described the letter and hearings as "Democrats' brazenness: their shocking and open targeting of news organizations."
She continued: "The left has long worked to shut down speech with which it disagrees, but officials in the past did it with more subterfuge."
Strassel predicted, if conservative networks were deplatformed, "customers would likely revolt, with financial implications for providers."
At the time, Fox News also attacked the Democrat censorship, with its senior legal analyst Jonathan Turley serving as their point man.
Look at what Turley wrote in The Hill on Feb. 24, 2021:
"The most extreme effort was made plain this week as some in Congress sought to pressure companies like AT&T to reconsider whether viewers should be allowed to watch Fox News and other networks [Newsmax and OAN].
"In a recent letter to cable carriers like AT&T, House Democrats Anna Eshoo and Jerry McNerney of California appeared to mirror calls from activists to drop such networks from their lineups. . . .
". . . the cable carriers were to yield to such pressure, there would be no major television outlet offering a substantial alternative to the coverage of networks like CNN and MSNBC. Tens of millions of viewers would be forced to watch those channels, or watch nothing at all. The limitation or elimination of conservative networks clearly would work to the advantage of Democrats — an obvious conflict of interest laid bare not only by the demand but the inclusion of only networks with large conservative audiences."
As it turned out, AT&T did appear to comply with the Democrats' demands, deplatforming OAN in April of 2022, and then Newsmax in January 2023.
In the past year alone, AT&T has deplatformed two of its three conservative news channels, citing cost-cutting.
Newsmax counts at least 22 liberal-leaning news channels still on DirecTV. All of them get cable license fees, and most have lower ratings than Newsmax.
And none have been deplatformed by AT&T.
Harvard Law professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz recently wrote in Newsweek, "So why doesn't DirecTV cut costs by reducing fees for the many lower-rated networks it carries?
"Why, again, has DirecTV decided everyone in cable news gets license fees except for Newsmax?"
He concluded: "This is not just a 'business dispute'; it is a prima facie case of discrimination against Newsmax."
Congress does have the right to question AT&T's deplatforming of Newsmax and OAN, especially in the light of the Eshoo and McNerney letter, not to mention the new revelations about Twitter and government collusion to censor conservative voices.
And Congress has an obligation to protect all voices from censorship.
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