Al Jazeera sues AT&T over refusal to carry new cable-news channel

Al Jazeera America began broadcasting on Tuesday

Home viewers may receive more channels than their parents could have ever dreamed of, but it’s one they aren’t receiving that has caused a court battle between cable service provider AT&T Inc. and broadcaster Al Jazeera.

Al Jazeera has filed a suit in Delaware Chancery Court over AT&T’s refusal to air the Qatar-based broadcaster’s new U.S. cable-news channel. Al Jazeera America began broadcasting on Tuesday after converting from Current TV, which Al Jazeera purchased from Al Gore in January.

According to Crain’s New York, AT&T’s U-Verse TV service said on Monday it would not carry the Al Jazeera channel over a contract dispute. Al Jazeera said in its filing this decision amounts to a “wrongful termination of an affiliation agreement.” According to an emailed statement to Crain’s, Al Jazeera officials said AT&T left them “no choice” over whether to file the breach of contract suit.

“AT&T's decision to unilaterally delete Al Jazeera America presented us with circumstances that were untenable—an affiliate that has willfully and knowingly breached its contractual obligations,” Stan Collender, a partner in Qorvis Communications, said on behalf of Al Jazeera.

U-Verse currently holds five million subscribers, mostly in Texas and California. Buying Current TV gave Al Jazeera America access to about 43 million homes nationwide, less than half of all paid cable TV subscription packages.

AT&T is not the only service provider to not carry the new Al Jazeera channel, however. Time Warner Cable, which is embroiled in a few litigation disputes of its own, dropped Current TV from its lineup in January. Officials with Time Warner are still negotiating with Al Jazeera on a new contract and declined to comment on the AT&T suit.

 

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