The brand new network was only on the air for a matter of hours before drama intersected with news coverage. Al Jazeera America, which went live at 3 p.m. Tuesday, announced it had filed a law suit against AT&T just six hours later.
The reason? The telecom giant unceremoniously dropped the network from U-Verse, its pay TV cable service that reaches some 5 million customers — a decision that AT&T indicated had been in the works for several weeks.
Al Jazeera America struck back swiftly, however.
“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. 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,” the network said in a statement.
“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,” concluded the network, which is funded by the Qatar government.
Details are still scanty on the dispute, which appears to have been brewing from the days of Current TV, the progressive news network founded by Al Gore in 2005. Al Jazeera America bought the channel from Mr. Gore in January for $500 million and has since built a news organization that promises credible news and original reporting.
Time Warner Cable, which has about 12 million viewers, has also refused to carry Al Jazeera America. The network is still carried by Verizon Fios, Comcast and DirecTV, with the potential reach to 43 million households in the U.S. and about 70 million worldwide.
As once was said in old school TV news, “there’s more to come.”