Al Jazeera America’s First Day Ends With Lawsuit

Al Jazeera America employees in the network's offices in New York, May 24, 2013. To counter skepticism about its Al Jazeera America cable channel, the Qatar-based network is building a sizable news organization to cover the U.S. (Chang W. Lee/The New York Times)
Photo: Chang W. LeeCHANG W LEE/The New York Times/Redux? The New York Times

Al Jazeera America's first day was a little rough. Late Monday night, one of America's larger cable providers, AT&T U-verse, abruptly announced that it was dropping Current TV, which transformed into Al Jazeera America on Tuesday afternoon. The decision, which AT&T attributed to an unspecified contract dispute, reduced the number of homes with access to the new news channel by as much as 5 million. On Tuesday evening, Bloomberg reported that Al Jazeera had responded to the programming change with a lawsuit accusing AT&T of "wrongful termination of an affiliation agreement."

In a statement, Al Jazeera said, "We had no choice but to take this action and to enforce Al Jazeera'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 network is seeking monetary damages in addition to the restoration of its spot on AT&T's roster.

For customers of AT&T, Time Warner (which dropped the channel back in January and is still negotiating a deal to carry it in the future), and other non-participating cable providers — or people unable to watch television at 3 p.m. on a Tuesday — the New York Times's Brian Stelter uploaded a video of the station's first five minutes: