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Al Jazeera America sues AT&T after it refuses to carry the network

Al Jazeera America has sued AT&T, a major TV distributor in the US, after it refused to carry the network on its pay TV service.

Al Jazeera America launched yesterday but has reportedly struggled to gain favour with distributors and advertisers, partly due to some of its US audience once perceiving the Qatar-based media company as being anti-American during the Iraq war.

Three years ago, Al-Jazeera English infamously blamed a "very aggressive hostility" from George W Bush's administration for the reluctance among US cable companies to show the network. Its global parent network, Al Jazeera, had been the media outlet of choice for Osama Bin Laden.

AT&T's U-verse service refused to carry the new network, with spokesman Mark Seigal simply saying: "We could not reach an agreement with the owner that we believed provided value for our customers and our business."

As reported by Reuters, Al Jazeera has responded by suing AT&T, which had a subscription base of five million customers at the end of June, for breach of contract.

In a statement, it said that AT&T had "unilaterally" deleted the network and "presented us with circumstances that were untenable - an affiliate that has willfully and knowingly breached its contractual obligations."

Time Warner Cable has also dropped Al Jazeera America, but Comcast, DirecTV, Dish and Verizon are currently carrying it.

Advertisers have also been slow to take up space on Al Jazeera America, with its initial airing only showing six minutes of ads per hour compared to the average 16 minutes on other networks. Gillette and phone service provider Vonage have been among the first to advertise with it.

However, Al Jazeera America has aimed to strengthen its position in the market with a campaign telling potential viewers that "there is more to it," which appears to reference the stories it covers as well as the network itself. Online videos, digital banners and ads on sites like The New York Times and Washington Post have all carried the same message.

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