One America News might have to shut down because of DirecTV’s decision to drop the right-wing network from its channel lineup, OAN said in a lawsuit against DirecTV and its owner AT&T.
DirecTV recently said it will drop OAN after their carriage contract expires in early April. DirecTV will also drop AWE (A Wealth of Entertainment), as OAN and AWE are both owned by Herring Networks. In a lawsuit filed on March 7 and reported by the Daily Beast on Friday, Herring Networks alleged that breach of contract and other violations were committed by AT&T, DirecTV, and AT&T Board Chairman William Kennard.
“As a result of the conduct of AT&T, AT&T Services, DirecTV, and Kennard, OAN and AWE might be forced off the air because Herring will no longer be able to broadcast OAN and AWE via DirecTV and Herring presently has limited alternative carriage options,” the lawsuit said. The nonrenewal “will result in damage to Herring exceeding $1 billion” if it isn’t reversed, the lawsuit said. The complaint was filed in California Superior Court in San Diego County and seeks both injunctive relief and financial damages.
“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,” Herring Networks alleged.
OAN slammed for misinformation
Herring claimed in a previous court case that it created OAN at AT&T’s request after AT&T “told us they wanted a conservative network.” The deal with AT&T and DirecTV provides OAN with most of its revenue.
OAN entered panic mode in January after DirecTV said it would drop the network. OAN host Dan Ball urged viewers to dig up “dirt” on Kennard, a Democrat who was the Federal Communications Commission chairman during the Clinton administration and US Ambassador to the European Union under President Barack Obama. “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 said on his show, alluding to the fact that Kennard is Black. “Whatever it may be. Find it for me. Bring it, and we will air it.”
Despite a recent spinoff, AT&T still owns 70 percent of DirecTV. The satellite TV provider announced it would drop OAN after pressure from advocacy groups who pointed out that OAN “is a major supporter of the Stop the Steal movement,” “stok[ed] violent calls for the attack on the US Capitol,” and airs “wall-to-wall COVID-19 disinformation.” OAN was also sued by voting-machine maker Dominion, which says it was defamed when OAN aired segments that claimed the 2020 presidential election was rigged.
Former President Donald Trump blasted AT&T and DirecTV for dropping OAN last month, blaming “radical left lunatics” and a “Communist movement.” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and five other Republication state attorneys general last week urged DirecTV to reverse the decision, claiming that “your failure to do so will… drive many millions of Americans to simply cancel your services outright, as President Trump and other leading figures have already called for.”
OAN and AT&T still have advertising deal
One big problem for Herring’s lawsuit is that AT&T didn’t break a carriage contract—it just decided not to sign a new one after the current deal expires. But Herring has a separate advertising deal with AT&T subsidiary Xandr that runs until July 2024 and claims it “reasonably” viewed this deal as “proof” that the carriage agreement would be renewed:
Herring reasonably believed that the Advertising Agreement was proof of a commitment to a long-term carriage relationship by AT&T, AT&T Services, and DirecTV. This belief was solidified by the fact that the Advertising Agreement was set to expire more than two years after the Affiliation Agreement was set to expire. Herring did not take issue with the term of the Advertising Agreement because Herring had a reasonable belief that the Affiliation Agreement would be renewed.
“Indeed, it would not make sense for AT&T Services to be the exclusive advertiser for OAN and AWE if DirecTV did not also carry OAN and AWE,” the lawsuit said.
The ad deal struck in 2019 lets AT&T “provide both traditional advertising and programmatic targeted advertising for Herring’s programs,” gave AT&T “the exclusive right to sell ad space” on the networks, “and required that Herring terminate its existing media vendor,” the lawsuit said. AT&T is selling Xandr to Microsoft, but the pending sale “will not include the portion of the company that sells commercials for DirecTV or OAN,” according to Reuters.