Al Jazeera America shutting down after 32 months

Low ratings and lack of advertisers forces channel to close, less than three years after launch.

Gil Ronen ,

Al Jazeera head offices in Doha, Qatar
Al Jazeera head offices in Doha, Qatar
Thinkstock

Al Jazeera America (AJAM), the US cable news outlet owned by Qatar-based Al Jazeera, is shutting down its operations less than three years after they were launched, due to low ratings and a lack of advertisers, among other problems.

Employees were informed that the network will be phased out by April 30, USA Today reported. The number of staffers to be laid off has been estimated at anywhere between 290 and 700.

AJAM, which is partly funded by the ruling family of Qatar, launched on August 20, 2013, after buying Current TV, the cable news channel co-founded by Al Gore, for about $500 million.

"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, AJAM acting director general, in a note to employees this week. Despite the shutdown, AJAM plans to expand its "international digital services to broaden its multi-platform presence in the United States," he added. In the months immediately after its launch to 40 million US homes, AJAM only averaged 13,000 viewers a day nationwide, equivalent to a public access channel.

US viewers were wary of the channel's possible function as a propaganda tool for the Muslim Brotherhood, which is solidly backed by the Qatari government. Critics lambasted AJAM for buying its way into the US to spread what they saw as its anti-Western and anti-Israel bias.

Some cable distributors initially refused to carry the network, but after filing lawsuits, AJAM expanded its reach to about 55 million US homes. Still, ratings did not grow. ts prime-time ratings recently ranged from 20,000 to 30,000 viewers, according to Nielsen data. 

In May, 2015, Al Jazeera fired AJAM CEO Ehab Al Shihabi after The New York Times published a story that alleged "a deep dysfunction" in management and a "culture of fear" under his leadership. AJAM was also sued by ex-employee Matthew Luke, formerly the channel's director of media and archive management, who accused AJAM news editor Osman Mahmud of displaying "overt misogynistic behavior and bias against women," claiming he repeatedly removed female employees from assignments and excluded them from company emails and meetings purely on the basis of their gender.




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