Al Jazeera America executives called recent charges that the network is “anti-American” false and vowed to press forward with a reorganization of the network’s programming.
“Al Jazeera America does not tolerate any discriminatory conduct, and we take great pride in the diversity of our organization and its leadership. The recent attacks on us as being anti-Semitic, sexist and anti-American are absurd,” said Ehab Al Shihabi, the network’s CEO, in a prepared statement. ” Al Jazeera America’s values are based on the highest ethical standards and professionalism. Integrity and respect guide our conduct internally and externally.”
Matthew Luke, a former supervisor of media and archive management at the network, recently filed a wrongful termination suit against the company, claiming executives at the network have exhibited “anti-American” bias and steadily recruited more Middle Eastern execs into the operation.
Al Jazeera America has faced strong headwinds in trying to recruit sponsors, with some ad buyers citing the network’s backing by the government of Qatar and Al Jazeera’s overseas coverage as reasons their clients have declined to support the U.S. network.
In recent weeks, the network has reorganized its programming lineup, cutting a number of shows. In the first quarter of this year, AJA averaged 35,000 viewers, which was up from 16,000 in the year-earlier period. AJA ranked 104 out of 106 ad-supported cable channels rated by Nielsen. Advertising on the channel is largely limited to direct response and infomercials. What is more, a few senior executives are exiting the network while people familiar with the operations describe a situation in which some of the high-profile editorial talent recruited in the network’s startup days have been marginalized as Al Shiabi has begun to exert more influence over programming decisions.
“As an organization operating in a competitive business environment, we must make tough choices on where and how to spend our resources, and not everyone is going to be happy with those choices,” said Al Shihabi, “but with our strategy we will ensure that the Al Jazeera brand continues to stand for quality journalism and news coverage from around the world for U.S. audiences.”