Al Jazeera To Terminate Operations In US

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Al Jazeera cable news outlet is to shut down its operations in the US.

After less than three years in operation, Al Jazeera America will terminate its news and digital operations in April

The Qatari owned Al Jazeera had to overcome established media bias and defend anti-Semitic and anti-Western accusations from day one of its operations in the US. The cable and satellite news television channel eventually ran into operational problems and had to succumb to a lack of ratings and advertisers.

USA Today reports:

The cable news network will be phased out by April 30, according to a memo that was emailed to staffers Wednesday. “As many as 700 staff members” could lose their jobs, CNN reported, citing unnamed sources. Al Jazeera couldn’t be immediately reached to verify the number of people affected by the move.

Al Jazeera Media Network, which is funded by the government of Qatar, launched the U.S.-based network in August, 2013 after buying Current TV, the cable news channel co-founded by Al Gore, for about $500 million earlier in the year.

The decision to go out of business was “driven by the fact that our business model is simply not sustainable in light of the economic challenges in the U.S. media marketplace,” AJAM CEO Al Anstey was quoted as saying in an AJAM report.

“I know the closure of AJAM will be a massive disappointment for everyone here who has worked tirelessly for our long-term future,” Anstey wrote in an email to staffers.

“The wind down of Al Jazeera America is not expected to have any impact on other businesses or operations of the network,” wrote Mostefa Souag, acting director general of Al Jazeera Media Network, in the note. Al Jazeera Media Network plans to expand its “international digital services to broaden its multi-platform presence in the United States,” Souag wrote.

As Al Jazeera prepared to launch in 2013, it hired several well-known journalists — Ali Velshi, Joie Chen and Mike Viqueira, to name a few – and vowed that its deep pockets would sustain the operations despite sluggish ratings that were expected at the outset. AJAM, as the U.S. operation came to be known, promised to spend money for investigative and fact-based journalism to distinguish itself from more entrenched competitors.

While some hoped Al Jazeera’s international origins and focus would lead the American offshoot to provide broaden coverage of the Middle East and overseas events, AJAM sought to focus on domestic news in hopes of expanding its influence in the U.S. But critics were vocal from day one, lambasting Al Jazeera for buying its way into the U.S. to spread what they saw as its anti-Western and anti-Semitic bias. Al Jazeera officials have denied consistently that the company was anti-Western, saying that viewers would change their minds if they gave the upstart operation a fair shot.

Some cable distributors initially refused to carry the network after Current TV’s operation was superseded by AJAM. After lawsuits, AJAM expanded its reach to about 55 million homes in the U.S. But ratings failed to grow. AJAM never disclosed ratings data, but industry analysts speculated that it never broke five digits.

Edmondo Burr
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