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Al Jazeera America launches; files lawsuit against AT&T

Stephon Johnson | 8/29/2013, 9:18 a.m. | Updated on 8/29/2013, 9:18 a.m.

Taking over what used to be Current TV, Al Jazeera America launched last week to much controversy but not as many homes as it initially wanted. But nonetheless, it’s made an impact.

The Qatari royal family paid $500 million for the Al Gore-owned Current TV back in January and rebranded it. The network has trumped itself as offering unbiased, straightforward news and in-depth reporting without the extra-dramatic flair of left-leaning MSNBC and right-leaning Fox News.

But with the skewed perception of Al Jazeera stemming from the beginnings of America’s war on terrorism a decade ago, the network is having a somewhat hard time playing down the image endorsed by former President George W. Bush as being “sympathetic” to terrorists.

Cable carriers have the same perception, as Time Warner dropped Current TV right after the announcement of its purchase by the Qatari royal family, while Al Jazeera filed a lawsuit against another carrier for what they call acting in “bad faith.” On the day that the network launched, Al Jazeera America sued AT&T for dropping it from the U-Verse TV service package of channels at the last minute, claiming that AT&T “willfully and knowingly breached its contractual obligations.”

In a statement, Al Jazeera America said that it “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,” according to TheHill.com. “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.”

AT&T fired back, saying that it dropped the network because both companies were unable to come to terms on a new agreement and claimed that “certain breaches” of the existing agreement were violated.

In order to broaden its appeal to Americans, Al Jazeera America poached some talent from CNN, including Ali Velshi, Soledad O’Brien and Emmy Award-winner Michael Okwu. The network also brought on former ABC Senior Vice President Kate O’Brian to serve as president. In addition, former ABC News correspondent Antonio Mora hosts a show on the network called “Consider This.”

Al Jazeera America soldiers on.