| NEW YORK
NEW YORK Aug 23 AT&T unfairly terminated
an affiliation agreement with Al Jazeera America, the cable
network says in a recently unsealed lawsuit that highlights
AT&T's subscriber base in conservative states.
Under a heavily redacted description of the alleged "bad
faith scheme," Al Jazeera notes in its complaint that "AT&T has
a large subscriber base in Texas and other conservative states
in the South and Southwest.
"Upon information and belief, it then began to cast around
for an excuse to unilaterally terminate the Affiliation
Agreement," the lawsuit says of AT&T.
Al Jazeera America launched on Tuesday, but AT&T's U-verse
pay-TV service did not carry the network, which in January
bought Current TV, the network founded by former vice president
Al Gore, because of a contract dispute, according to AT&T
spokesman Mark Siegel.
"Al Jazeera has mischaracterized the facts," Siegel said in
an e-mail on Friday. "Due to certain breaches by Al Jazeera,
AT&T terminated the agreement and will no longer carry Current
TV on U-Verse."
Globally, Al Jazeera is seen in more than 260 million homes
in 130 countries. But the new U.S. channel has so far had
difficulty getting distributors, in part because Al Jazeera was
perceived by some as being anti-American during the Iraq war.
Before AT&T's announcement, Al Jazeera America said it would
be available in more than 40 million homes - about 40 percent of
U.S. pay-TV households and roughly half the reach of Time Warner
Inc's CNN. U-verse was launched in 2006 and had 5
million video customers at the end of June in markets such as
Texas and California.
Al Jazeera's lawsuit is seeking a judgment declaring AT&T to
be in material breach of the affiliation agreement, ordering
AT&T to honor the agreement and awarding compensatory damages to
The lawsuit says Al Jazeera bought Current TV primarily
because of its existing distribution agreements with carriers.
"AT&T was aware that (a) Al Jazeera would be offering a new
news and information service that would replace the Current
service, and that it would be called 'Al Jazeera America,' and
(b) after the merger Al Gore would no longer be an equity holder
or director of Current, or have any other involvement with
Current or Al Jazeera," the lawsuit states.