The right-wing media world has been dominated by Fox News for nearly twenty-five years. That remains true today despite the emergence of a couple upstart, and even more extreme, networks, Newsmax and One America News (OAN). However, the newcomers are still too small to present any real threat of competition.
Reuters is now reporting that OAN had some help from a prominent media megacorporation. As revealed in court records that were made public, AT&T was an early supporter of OAN, providing the network carriage on its platform when few other cable operators were doing so. According to Reuters…
“A Reuters review of court records shows the role AT&T played in creating and funding OAN, a network that continues to spread conspiracy theories about the 2020 election and the COVID-19 pandemic.
“OAN founder and chief executive Robert Herring Sr has testified that the inspiration to launch OAN in 2013 came from AT&T executives.
“’They told us they wanted a conservative network,’ Herring said during a 2019 deposition seen by Reuters. ‘They only had one, which was Fox News, and they had seven others on the other [leftwing] side. When they said that, I jumped to it and built one.’
“Since then, AT&T has been a crucial source of funds flowing into OAN, providing tens of millions of dollars in revenue, court records show. Ninety percent of OAN’s revenue came from a contract with AT&T-owned television platforms, including satellite broadcaster DirecTV, according to 2020 sworn testimony by an OAN accountant.”
For AT&T to throw its support behind a pseudo-news network that was already dealing in dangerous conspiracy theories and blatantly dishonest propaganda, is a breach of their obligation to the public that comprises its customer universe. If they wanted a “conservative” network to compete with Fox News there were other organizations that had track records that more closely resembled the practice of journalism. OAN didn’t even exist when AT&T floated the notion that they would carry its programming.
That sort of irresponsible collaboration with a deceitful entity devoted to propaganda is particularly appalling for the the corporate parent of WarnerMedia, the owner of CNN (although CNN will soon be spun off in a deal with Discovery Networks). And the story became even more sordid when OAN disclosed that it had promised to “cast a positive light” on AT&T during its newscasts. That’s a fatal breach journalistic ethics on the parts of both AT&T and OAN.
It’s also notable that CNN has been a frequent target of Donald Trump. He regularly referred to them as “fake” news and even launched a boycott of AT&T in an attempt to get them to interfere with CNN’s reporting. Trump once tweeted…
“After watching [CNN] for a short while, I turned it off. All negative & so much Fake News, very bad for U.S. Big ratings drop. Why doesn’t owner @ATT do something? I believe that if people stoped using or subscribing to @ATT, they would be forced to make big changes at @CNN”
Of course it would have been totally improper for AT&T to try to force editorial changes at CNN. But Trump, being who he is, wouldn’t know that. However, executives at AT&T should have known and repudiated Trump’s suggestion.
The question now is whether Trump will forgive AT&T because of their support for his favorite wingnut mouthpiece, OAN. Although it might just confuse him because they still own CNN for now. This is a recipe for a mental meltdown of some sort. Not that Trump needs any new reasons to freak out.
UPDATE 1/14/2022: DirectV, which is majority owned by AT&T, has announced that it will be dropping OAN:
“The move will deal a significant blow to the fringe outlet. Not only will OAN be removed from the millions of households that use DirecTV as a television provider, it will also suffer a major hit to its revenue.”
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How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.