Broadcasters Claim AT&T Stiffed Them After DirectTV Deal

By Eva Fedderly

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (CN) – A group of broadcasters claims in court that AT&T failed to pay them owed retransmission fees after the telecom giant acquired DirectTV.

In a complaint filed in the Charlotte, North Carolina federal court on Nov. 10, the broadcast companies, all owned by Bahakel Communications Ltd., say that prior to AT&T finalizing its acquisition of DirectTV, the parties drafted an agreement allowing for the retransmission of Bahakel’s signal to AT&T’s subscribers.

According to the complaint, the contract stated that if AT&T were to acquire another company, it would have to notify the plaintiff so that the agreement could be adjusted.

AT&T acquired DirectTV in 2015 and notified Bahakel Communications that it had begun assimilating DirectTV’s services into the AT&T family of companies.

The plaintiffs replied in writing on Jan. 13, 2016. The letter stated, “Pursuant to Section 11 of the Agreement, the Bahakel Group hereby elects to update and amend Exhibit A to add the DIRECTV System as a ‘System’ under the Agreement, as of the acquisition date.”

The complaint states, “The Bahakel Station Group made this election because the fees for retransmission that it was entitled to receive under the Agreement were substantially higher than the fees it was to receive from DIRECTV pursuant to a retransmission agreement with DIRECTV negotiated before the purchase by AT&T.”

The plaintiffs assert that despite their demand, “AT&T has failed and refused to add the DIRECTV system as a System under the Agreement, and has failed to pay Bahakel the sums to which it is entitled under the Agreement as amended.”

Bahakel seeks unspecified damages, plus attorneys’ fees.

The plaintiffs are represented by Robert McNeill of Horack, Talley, Pharr & Lowndes in Charlotte.

AT&T spokesman Marty Richter told Courthouse News, “We comply with the law in our dealings with broadcasters. We believe the allegations in the lawsuit are baseless.”

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