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Monday, November 28, 2022

Pro-Trump ‘propaganda’ channel One America News Network to lose its biggest TV distributor

America’s biggest satellite television provider has said it will cut the pro-Trump news channel One America News Network (OANN) from its service, dealing a severe blow to one of the former president’s most stalwart cheerleaders.

DirecTV, a distributor with about 15 million subscribers that is 70 per cent owned by the US telecoms giant AT&T, announced on Friday that it would not renew its contract with OANN when the current one expires. following “a routine internal review”.

The decision could spell financial ruin for OANN, which gets about 90 per cent of its revenue from DirecTV according to court papers. One lawyer for OANN said in 2020 that Herring Networks “would go out of business tomorrow” if dropped by DirecTV.

It is a victory for campaign groups such as the NAACP and the left-leaning Media Matters for America, which have been demanding AT&T cut OANN off due to its role in spreading Mr Trump’s “Big Lie” that the 2020 election result was fraudulent.

NAACP president Derrick Johnson hailed DirecTV’s decision as a win for “the future of democracy”, saying that OANN “only seeks to create further division”.

On Friday, President Joe Biden made a “special appeal” to social media companies and media outlets, saying: “Please deal with the misinformation and disinformation that’s on your shows. It has to stop.”

Mr Biden’s spokesperson Jen Psaki has compared OANN to Russian and Chinese state propaganda channels.

A spokesperson for DirecTV told The Independent that it was ending the contract for business reasons amid a shrinking market for paid TV and customer demand for cheaper and smaller bundles of TV channels.

Asked whether politics played any role in the move, he said: “We evaluate a variety of inputs, but that did not drive our decision as our decision was based on the needs of the business.”

OANN has been in lockstep with Mr Trump since his election in 2016, hawking numerous conspiracy theories and false stories about the election, the pandemic, Covid-19 vaccines, school shootings and more.

DirecTV declined to say when the current contract will end, but the company had previously been sued by OANN for attempting to cut ties in 2016 and settled out of court in March 2017.

OANN re-appeared on DirecTV the next month, suggesting that its contract may have been a requirement of the settlement. If it was a five year contract, it would expire in April this year.

Commenting on Friday’s announcement, Media Matters president Angelo Carusone said: “DirecTV made a negligent mistake in 2021 when they renewed their contract with OANN even after OANN spent weeks attacking the election and stoking the embers that helped fuel the 6 January insurrection. They gave OANN a full year to undermine our democracy, and our country suffered for it.

“Just as DirecTV’s decision to renew in 2021 mattered, their decision to drop OANN in 2022 matters too. DirecTV has been functionally propping up OANN for years. Without DirecTV, OANN would certainly not exist in its current form and possibly not at all.”

Mr Carusone urged OANN’s other key distributor, Verizon’s Fios fibre optic network, to do the same, and said cable providers should not do business with the channel.

Conservative Fox News host Lou Dobbs countered that “corporate media is crushing what little dissent remains”, sharing a news story that accused DirecTV of obeying Mr Biden’s “order” to drop outlets that “deviate from the regime’s official narrative”.

OANN did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Independent.

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