Al Jazeera America Sues AT&T Over Dropped Carriage

By Alex Weprin 

Al Jazeera America has filed suit against AT&T, alleging that the company breached its contract by dropping AJAM the day it launched. AT&T’s Uverse TV product dropped Current TV just a few hours before it switched to AJAM, citing a “contract dispute.”

“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,” reads a statement from AJAM. “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,” the channel added.

Time Warner Cable dropped Current after Al Jazeera acquired the channel, but it is accepted that TWC had a clause in its contract permitting it to do so if ownership changed. It is not believed that AJAM’s other carriers had similar clauses, making AT&T’s last minute drop all the more puzzling. Typically a carrier would be compelled to carry the channel through the end of the agreement, unless there was a specific “out” clause.