Al Jazeera America Shuts Down Television Operations
Al Jazeera America has announced its decision to wrap up its television operations with effect from April 30, 2016. The network tweeted its decision that follows a long reduction in its viewership and readership. According to CNN Money, the network has had viewership problems since its launch, with only 20,000 to 40,000 people watching the channel during prime time.
“I know the closure of AJAM will be a massive disappointment for everyone here who has worked tirelessly for our long-term future,” Al Jazeera America’s chief executive Al Anstey said, in a memo. “The decision that has been made is in no way because AJAM has done anything but a great job. Our commitment to great journalism is unrivaled.”
The channel started its operations in 2013, after the Qatar-based Al Jazeera Media Network acquired former Vice President Al Gore’s Current TV for $500 million. The channel was lauded for its restraint in journalism and a sensible alternative to the mainstream cable news. However, since its inception, the channel faced several issues, including a lawsuit from Gore, as well very low ratings.
In May 2015, AJAM’s former CEO Ehab Al Shihabi, was replaced following the exodus of three of AJAM’s top female executives as he was the defendant in a discrimination lawsuit that claimed that he favored the network’s Arabic, as well as male employees.
To make its legal quandary worse, the network’s general counsel, David W Harleston, was suspended in November, after the NY Times reported that he wasn’t actually licensed to practice law.
Also in late December, AJAM broadcasted an hour-long documentary that accused several sports stars, including Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, for using performance enhancing drugs. AJAM’s source later said that he was not straight, and Manning fervently denied the allegations. The documentary, called ‘The Dark Side: Secrets of the Sports Dopers,’ ultimately made them the defendant in two defamation suits brought by baseball stars Ryan Zimmerman and Ryan Howard, in January. The two players sued the network for libel and false light invasion of privacy.
The channel’s end has been linked by some to the sharply dropping price of oil, which sunk below $30 a barrel on Tuesday. The government of Qatar – AJAM’s ultimate owner – gets much of its income from the Gulf state’s massive oil production.