When Bryan Leib, the former executive director of Iranian Americans for Liberty, saw that DirecTV, which AT&T and TPG own, was declining to pay subscriber fees to the channel Newsmax, he decided he needed a “Justice League” of Jewish leaders.
He got on the phone, and now two dozen prominent Jews have signed a letter to DirecTV and its parent companies expressing “serious concern” about removing Newsmax. The letter and other relevant materials were provided to JNS.
“As leaders in our community, we represent millions of Jewish Americans. Newsmax has been a crucial way for us to reach our fellow Americans to share our perspectives on antisemitism, anti-Zionism, the State of Israel and other matters important to our community,” the signers wrote.
Two former U.S. senators, Joseph Lieberman and Norm Coleman, former Anti-Defamation League head Abraham Foxman, Harvard Law School emeritus professor Alan Dershowitz, former U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, Zionist Organization of America National President Morton A. Klein and Republican Jewish Coalition CEO Matt Brooks are among those who signed the letter.
It is difficult to find fair coverage of Israel in major media, the group wrote. “In fact, many in the media have turned a blind eye to the sharp and dangerous rise of antisemitism in America.” Yet, Newsmax has offered “an invaluable voice,” they added, noting that “numerous” Jews, including rabbis, are frequent Newsmax guests and cannot be found on other networks.
“We have found Newsmax has offered fair coverage of Jewish issues and Israel,” they added, “and has served as an important platform for us to speak out against the dangerous rise of antisemitism.” If the companies remove Newsmax, the group stated, they “will lose significant support from the Jewish community.”
Leib, the group’s spokesman, told JNS that Newsmax has a considerably larger subscriber base than other networks that AT&T, TPG and DirecTV have retained. While the companies pay $35 per subscriber to others, it has balked at Newsmax’s offer of $1 per subscriber, instead asking for Newsmax to operate gratis, according to Leib.
“DirecTV is trying to demonetize Newsmax,” he said.
Leib echoed some of what the Jewish leaders wrote. “So many networks out there provide slanted coverage toward Israel,” he said. “Newsmax has always provided fair and balanced coverage of the state of Israel.” Newsmax also employs a full-time Jerusalem correspondent, Daniel Cohen.
“Newsmax has always stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the Jewish community in America,” Leib said.
Newsmax has deals with Verizon, Dish and others, who pay it subscriber fees, according to Leib.
“It is blatant and brazen political censorship,” Leib said of DirecTV. “They did the same thing to One America last year.” The latter was at the request of Democratic lawmakers, he said.
“It’s time for DirecTV and its parent company AT&T to come back to the negotiating table,” he said.
Since DirecTV took Newsmax off the air on Jan. 24, AT&T stock is down 7.09%, while the S&P is up 3.6% and the Dow is up 2.9 percent. That is a loss of $10 billion in AT&T’s market share, Leib noted.
“Who knows if that has anything to do with Newsmax or not,” he said.
TPG did not immediately respond to a request for comment from JNS. An AT&T spokesman referred questions to DirecTV. On Friday, Jon Greer, a DirecTV spokesman, told JNS that DirecTV remains interested in bringing Newsmax back and that its differences with Newsmax are “economic, not political or ideological.”
“Newsmax made unreasonable demands that would force DirecTV customers to fund the network’s shift from a free nationwide streaming service to one that will require a pay TV subscription,” Greer said. “Since we would not agree to Newsmax’s demand to pay them tens of millions of dollars in licensing fees, DirecTV was no longer permitted by Newsmax to air its content.”
“DirecTV is disappointed by Newsmax’s position,” he added. “We prefer Newsmax had never left and remain interested in bringing Newsmax back under the right financial terms.” He noted DirecTV programming reflects “all voices,” including the network The First, whose hosts include Bill O’Reilly, and whose website bills it as “The Most Powerful Conservative Voices in America.”