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Published: Friday, 8/23/2013

AT&T accused of wrongfully canceling Al-Jazeera America before its launch


DALLAS -- AT&T Inc., the largest U.S. phone company, “acted in bad faith” when it pulled the plug on Al Jazeera’s new U.S. channel, lawyers for the Qatar-based broadcaster said in court filings.

Dallas-based AT&T came up with a “pretextual scheme” to justify dropping Al Jazeera America from its U-verse pay-TV service just before the channel started broadcasting earlier this week, Al Jazeera’s lawyers said in an unsealed lawsuit.

The move gave AT&T an opportunity to “simply pocket millions of dollars to which it was not entitled,” the network’s lawyers said in the suit, which has been heavily redacted to protect the agreement’s confidential information.

AT&T’s U-verse pay-TV service said Aug. 19 it wouldn’t carry Al Jazeera America because of a contract dispute. U-verse began in 2006 and has 5 million video customers in states such as Texas and California.

Roberta Thomson, an AT&T spokeswoman, said she couldn’t immediately comment on Al Jazeera’s claims in the unsealed suit. Thomson is a partner in Brunswick Group LLC’s Dallas office.

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