Al Jazeera America Sues AT&T

Al Jazeera America said Tuesday it had filed suit against AT&T for breach of contract after it dropped the channel, formerly Current TV, from its lineup.

AT&T stopped airing the channel on Aug. 20, the same day Al Jazeera America launched as a 24-hour news network.

“Al Jazeera America made a decision to seek judicial intervention in its
dispute with AT&T. Unfortunately 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," said the company in a statement. "Accordingly, we had no choice but to take this action and to enforce Al Jazeera America's rights under its agreement with AT&T - and to compel AT&T to do the right thing."

"Al Jazeera America's strong hope is to resolve this matter quickly so that AT&T's customers will have access to our unbiased, fact-based and in depth coverage of the news that is important to Americans."

AT&T said earlier in the day that it was not carrying the channel due to a failure to reach a carriage agreement.AT&T spokesman Mark Siegel indicated early Wednesday (Aug. 21) that Al Jazeera had done some breaching of its own: "As a result of our inability to come to terms on a new agreement and due to certain breaches by Al Jazeera of the existing agreement," he told MultiChannel News, "we have decided not to carry Current TV on U-verse."

U-verse, with some 5 million customers, is the eighth-largest multichannel provider in the country. Current TV had been on channel 189 in the telco TV provider's mid-range U300 package, according to the telco.

The network also launched without carriage on Time Warner Cable, the second-biggest U.S. cable operator, though the MSO had said it was in talks about possibly carrying the channel in future. TWC dropped Current after it was sold to Al Jazeera Media in January.

Al Jazeera America had been scheduled to launch in some 50 million homes, a base that included U-verse subscribers.--Mike Reynolds contributed to this story.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.