DirecTV Drops Russia’s RT America in Response to Invasion, Sends Shatner Show Into Limbo

DirecTV has dropped RT America, the sister network to Russia Today, in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine reports Deadline. The satellite service was one of the largest U.S. distributors of RT, the Kremlin’s notorious state-funded network, along with Dish Network and Roku. RT America’s offerings have included I Don’t Understand with William Shatner. The company that produces Shatner’s show said on Tuesday that it will suspend production.

In the U.S., the National Association of Broadcasters has called on stations to stop carrying Russian state-sponsored programming.

As a consequence of losing DirecTV’s business, RT America announced it was shutting down today. A CNN story says:

RT America will cease productions and lay off most of its staff, according to a memo from T&R Productions, the production company behind the Russian state-funded network, which CNN obtained.

Misha Solodovnikov, the general manager of T&R Productions, told staff in the memo that it will be “ceasing production” at all of its locations “as a result of unforeseen business interruption events.”

… The news would mean an effective end to RT America. The network, one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s main mouthpieces in the US, was dropped earlier this week by DirecTV, dealing a major financial blow to it. The satellite carrier was one of the two major television providers in the US to carry the network.

Last July, William Shatner traded blows on Twitter with journalists who called him out for hosting his new show on the Kremlin’s notorious state-funded network, RT. But this week he pivoted to offer public support to the Ukraine. The Daily Beast has Shatner’s latest thoughts about RT America, his show landing there, and his tweets about Ukraine: “Dennis Miller Abandons His Show on RT, the Kremlin-Funded Network”.

In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, comedian Dennis Miller and others will stop hosting shows on RT America, the Kremlin-funded cable network that the U.S. intelligence community has deemed a “state-run propaganda machine.”

Miller’s program, titled Dennis Miller + One, had run on the network since March 2020. But a source close to the Saturday Night Live alum confirmed to The Daily Beast that he will stop making the twice-weekly half-hour program. “He has no plans on going back,” a source told NBC News, which first reported the news of Miller’s show ending.

… Shatner unapologetically launched an RT America talk show last year, titled I Don’t Understand, despite widespread criticism. In recent days, however, he’s taken to social media to express some solidarity with Ukraine.

In one tweet, which Shatner’s representative said the star wanted to “share” with The Daily Beast, the 90-year-old actor said his “prayers are with the people of the Ukraine” and that the “brave people fighting an overwhelming force” reminds him of Nazis attempting to overthrow Stalingrad in World War II.

Following publication, Shatner provided The Daily Beast with a statement regarding his show’s production and its relationship with RT.

“Ora TV sold the show to RT America. I had no say in the matter. My talk show, ‘I Don’t Understand,’ is purely entertainment and about all the things I don’t understand which is everything because I am at a loss for most things,” he wrote. “It is informative, entertaining and totally, absolutely non-political. My contract for seventy half-hour shows this past year has been with Ora TV. Those seventy shows are in the pipeline and I have no voice in that matter as well.’

Shatner added: “I await with apprehension what will transpire but my total sympathy is with Ukraine. They are the historic change in the world today and I look at them with great admiration and pray that they will emerge victorious.

“As for RT America, my latest information is that all production from Ora TV shows to RT America has been suspended.”

[Thanks to Frank Catalano for the links.]

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11 thoughts on “DirecTV Drops Russia’s RT America in Response to Invasion, Sends Shatner Show Into Limbo

  1. Unforeseen business interruption events? Well that’s one way to describe invading a country and getting yourself declared polity non grata by every other polity including Switzerland.

  2. PhilRM: Well, yeah — that’s what the CNN story quoted in my post said.

  3. @Mike: Well, that’s embarrassing. That’ll teach me not to reply after skimming.

  4. I haven’t seen RT in years as my TV service never carried it. Could Shatner put his show on another network? I doubt if he was doing Russian propaganda. Anyone see the show?

  5. @Linda: The show was done for a production company (Ora TV) that then sold it to RT America, as Shatner is quoted as saying, but it’s not clear if there are any rights that remain with Ora TV or the details of its agreement with RT America. It’s conceivable the show could be placed elsewhere by the production company; there is a history of that with other shows in broadcasting. All depends on the contract.

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