Judge orders Al Jazeera, AT&T to open up details of contract dispute

There's no reason to consider confidential the reasons that led AT&T (NYSE: T) to drop Al Jazeera from its U-verse IPTV lineup, a Delaware Chancery Court judge has ruled. As a result, Judge Sam Glasscock III ordered Al Jazeera to release most of the contract details within five business days.

The judge determined that, minor exceptions notwithstanding, "neither party has shown 'good cause' to maintain confidential treatment of the redacted complaint. Those who decide to litigate in a public forum (rather than pursue a private dispute-resolution procedure) must do so in a manner consistent with the right of the public to follow and monitor the proceedings," according to a Bloomberg story.

The ruling should open up the behind-the-scenes details of what led AT&T to decide not to carry Al Jazeera's U.S. cable channel on U-verse, even though the channel was replacing another contracted player in the lineup. That decision led Al Jazeera to sue AT&T, and both parties to keep some details private as their attorneys argued that the contract terms were proprietary.

The secrecy was challenged by media outlets which wanted to know the details behind the decision.

What's been made public so far is that AT&T on Aug. 19 decided not to carry the network on U-verse because of a dispute between the two parties, effectively keeping Al Jazeera America off a system that has 5 million subscribers.

Al Jazeera America was formed when the Qatari royal family paid $500 million for Al Gore's Current TV network and rebranded and repurposed it. That network was available to about 43 million U.S. subscribers watching on pay TV services like Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA), DirecTV (Nasdaq: DTV) and Dish Network (Nasdaq: DISH). AT&T had carried Current TV but, in a disputed action, declined to move that contract over to Al Jazeera America.

For more:
- Bloomberg carried this story

Related articles:
AT&T drops Al Jazeera; Verizon agrees with CBS
Al Jazeera plans online channel
Al Jazeera sues AT&T after it refuses to replace Current TV with news network

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