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Al Jazeera sues AT&T for dropping its American cable news network from U-verse 'in bad faith'

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Al Jazeera
Al Jazeera

Al Jazeera has been working all year to launch an English language cable news network in the United States, but not all went to plan when the channel went live this past Tuesday. AT&T cut the channel from its U-verse lineup just hours before Al Jazeera America (AJA) aired, making the network inaccessible to the service provider's 5 million customers — and leaving AJA with just over 40 million homes on board. Al Jazeera's now taking AT&T to court over the matter, according to documents unsealed this past week, which claim that the service provider "cast around for an excuse to unilaterally terminate the Affiliation Agreement." The company added in a statement to The New York Times that "We had no choice but to take this action and to enforce Al Jazeera's rights under its agreement with AT&T." The company also claims that AT&T "acted in bad faith" and "simply pocket millions of dollars to which it was not entitled" by cutting the cord on AJA, reports Bloomberg.

The media empire, which is run and funded by the government of Qatar, notes that U-verse has many customers in "conservative states" and subtly suggests that AT&T removed AJA from its channel lineup due to concerns about carrying a channel infamously known to American audiences for broadcasting videos from Osama Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda. AT&T rejects that claim, saying in a statement to Bloomberg that "Al Jazeera has mischaracterized the facts" and explaining to The New York Times that it removed that channel "As a result of our inability to come to terms on a new agreement and due to certain breaches of the existing agreement."

AJA comes as the result of a $500 million purchase of Al Gore's Current TV network this past January. The company notes that it purchased the network for the explicit purpose of using its existing agreements with cable operators, which included Comcast, DirecTV, Dish, and Verizon FiOS in addition to AT&T U-verse. Time Warner Cable dropped Current TV — citing low viewership — soon after Al Jazeera announced its purchase of the network, but it's said that the two are in talks to sign a new agreement.