DirecTV has told Axios that it intends to drop RT America, the U.S. version of Russia Today, a state-sponsored media channel.
The change goes into effect immediately, a spokesperson told Axios, though the contract was set to expire later this year anyway.
The move comes as more and more businesses worldwide feel pressure to cut ties with Russia, which has increased its attacks on Ukraine after launching an invasion in late February.
Meanwhile, YouTube has blocked channels for Russia Today and Sputnik in Europe. “Due to the ongoing war in Ukraine,” wrote the Google Europe Twitter account, “we’re blocking YouTube channels connected to RT and Sputnik across Europe, effective immediately.”
The removal (or addition) of channels often can be seen as a political movie, but that doesn’t remove the business implications. On Tuesday, the National Association of Broadcasters issued a statement focusing on its role as “a fierce defender of the First Amendment and the critical importance of the ability to freely express views, both popular and unpopular. While the First Amendment protects freedom of speech, however, it does not prevent private actors from exercising sound, moral judgment.”
NAB went on to say in no uncertain terms that broadcasters shouldn’t aid in Russian-sponsored state programming.
“Given the unprovoked aggression exhibited by Russia against the free and sovereign people of Ukraine, NAB calls on broadcasters to cease carrying any state-sponsored programming with ties to the Russian government or its agents. While we know that airings of such programs are extremely limited, we believe that our nation must stand fully united against misinformation and for freedom and democracy across the globe.”
Meanwhile, Russia Today remains available on other platforms in the U.S, including Dish, whose satellite service competes directly with DirecTV. Russia Today is on its “America’s Top 120” package, the second level of service, which costs $7 a month. Dish also owns Sling TV, which is the third-largest live TV streaming service in the United States. RT America is only available as a $6-a-month add-on, however, and isn’t part of either of Sling TV’s base packages.
We’ve reached out to Sling about whether it expects any change in its carriage of Russia Today or any other channels.
Roku has removed Russia Today from its channel stores in Europe, but it remains available in the U.S.
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