Al Jazeera America To Shut Down

Al Jazeera America Shutting Down
Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP

Al Jazeera America will cease operations at the end of April, the final chapter in a tale of failed ambition by the government of Qatar to establish a TV-news beachhead in the U.S.

The decision was “driven by the fact that our business model is simply not sustainable in light of the economic challenges in the US media marketplace,” Al Anstey, the network’s CEO, said in an email to staff Wednesday. The network will shut down as of April 30, he said, and the broader Al Jazeera newsgathering operation, which has more strength overseas, will be available via mobile and digital in the United States in expanded fashion.

“I know the closure of AJAM will be a massive disappointment for everyone here who has worked tirelessly for our long-term future,” Anstey said in the memo. The executive did not respond immediately to a text message seeking additional comment.

The closure marks the last gasp of an aggressive foray into U.S. TV journalism. Al Jazeera in 2013 paid a whopping $500 million for Current, the naescent cable-news outlet owned in part by former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, and launched its U.S. outlet quickly in August of that year with respected talent like Kate O’Brian, a top executive at ABC News, and Ali Velshi, a popular correspondent on CNN. Al Jazeera executives vowed to stay above the usual fray and din of cable-news programming, bearing down more seriously on the news of the day without resorting to the common technique of having talking-head guests shout at each other.

Yet the network ran into headwinds from the get-go. Ratings were perennially low. Many advertisers shunned the outlet, choosing instead to run low-cost direct response or so-called “programmatic” advertising on its air. There was some thought that concerns about Al Jazeera’s Qatar backing may have turned off Madison Avenue.

And the network always seemed to be in the midst of tremendous flux. Under a previous chief, Ehab Al Shihabi, Al Jazeera America’s schedule was tinkered with constantly. Some freelancers and staffers were laid off. Al Jazeera faced questions about a wrongful-termination lawsuit as well as defections of senior executives.

The network’s new CEO, Anstey, offered a rosier picture in November, saying that the fast pace of launch had contributed to demoralization of the staff. Anstey vowed to set things right and continue on the network’s mission of presenting a more serious level of news. ”I think we should not be sitting here and be too optimistic,” he told Variety in November. “It’s going to take time to build viewership.” He also said the network’s parent had a “long term commitment” to maintaining its U.S. operations  – something that turned out to be inaccurate.

In recent days, Al Jazeera America did make a mark. It aired a report earlier this month linking football great Peyton Manning to performance-enhancing drugs. Manning denied the allegations.

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  1. Roberta Roden says:

    I first saw “Aljazeera” on Italian TV. When I returned to New York I found it on cable:.News around the world, experienced reporters on site, great camera work, thorough, detailed stories. Everything contri-
    buted to stories that satisfied the viewer: interviews that satisfied the viewer’s curiosity,outstanding
    photographic story telling. There is nothing comparable in US daily reporting.
    HOW I WILL MISS YOU, ALJAZEERA ! ! ! I would pay to see you, a monthly rate. I’m sure there are many more viewers out there than you think who also would pay. Don’t give up on us.

    Roberta Roden

  2. cadavra says:

    Real journalists (not blonde dimwits) presenting actual news (not right-wing talking points)? Never had a chance.

  3. jh says:

    It’s a shame that Americans did not take advantage of the service to overcome its collective ignorance of the Middle East and other parts of the larger world. A little knowledge goes a long way to understanding and solution. Alas, some prefer the comfort of their ignorance.

  4. Peace Be Unto You,

    A lot of good peoples in the Western Hemisphere depend on Al-Jazeera’s journalistic intentions and deeds, to get the factual word out to the American publics. A 360 degree turn around in this can be labeled as nothing more than a sell out, according to certain Harvard University authorities. The predictions that a sell out was in the workings, has rung true, if Variety’s report on this matter is true. “Long live truthful Journalism.”

    Yours In Peace
    Mr. Hasson J. Rashid,
    CCTV Cambridge,MA

  5. Chicago860 says:

    I’m surprised the grossly-misled Hollywood talent pool hasn’t proposed a telethon to keep them on the air.

  6. Liz says:

    Soooo sorry to hear this news.

  7. Eric says:

    With AJAM (Al Jazeera America; successor of VP Al Gore’s Current TV) shutting down after almost 2 years on the air… it remains to be seen what will replace it. I’m not sure of the chances of AJE (All Jazeera English) replacing AJAM, which I doubt anybody would watch. Chances of Current TV being revived would be slim to none. I’m not sure if this could spell opportunity for Newsmax TV to grow it’s audience. MSNBC/CNBC, CNN/HLN, and FNC/FBN being established names.

  8. rick says:

    So long to really, really bad rubbish.

  9. davidlbrady says:

    Couldn’t happens on enough to a worse “muck raking, yellow journalism group” it never should have started in the U.S.!!!

    Sent from my iPhone


  10. Joann Hardcastle says:

    In this election season they need to leave for their own safety. Trump is fanning the flames of racist’s.

  11. TM says:

    Well, you can’t fund ISIS, built a hedonistic Babel on the Gulf and launch a news channel. Maybe the Qataris will learn, that all their buying (entertainment, hotels, soccer clubs and so forth) happens only because London and NY based banksters are advising them. If you don’t understand a business you should not be in it. Not even as an investor.

    Let’S hope their stupid WC 2022 will go the same way.

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