The Qatar-sponsored news network Al Jazeera America (AJAM) debuted three years ago when it purchased Al Gore’s Current TV for $500 million. The network promised to cover American news seriously and soberly, with no political bias. It was announced Wednesday that this propaganda machine will be closing by the end of April.
The “decision by Al Jazeera America’s board is driven by the fact that our business model is simply not sustainable in light of the economic challenges in the US media marketplace,” writes the company’s Chief Executive, Al Anstey. “I know the closure of AJAM will be a massive disappointment for everyone here who has worked tirelessly for our long-term future. 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 truth is, AJAM never succeeded in attracting meaningful viewership. Even its prime-time ratings often struggled to reach more than 30,000 viewers. With a non-unanimous vote, the AJAM board decided that Al Jazeera America had failed to formulate a business model beyond the continuous support it had previously enjoyed from Qatar.
Wednesday’s announcement was met with tears by the hundreds of staffers who will soon face unemployment. Many of them suspect that falling oil prices had something to do with the decision to close, even though a company spokeswoman denied this theory on Wednesday.
Qatar, in addition to its oil wealth, is a top exporter of liquefied natural gas – the price of which has also plummeted. To make matters worse, the company experienced an exodus of employees last year after complaints of anti-Semitism and sexism. Morale improved when Mr. Anstey stepped in to replace former Chief Executive Ehab Al Shihabi last May, but ratings remained the same.
AJAM has faced an uphill battle from the very start, explains former President of CBS News, Andrew Heyward. Cable news “is a very well-served market, not to say saturated, and you have three powerful, well-established players,” he says, referring to CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC. “Endemically, it’s not quite clear that the world was waiting for a new 24-hour cable channel in the US, and cable operators certainly weren’t waiting for it.”
The network’s claims to cover “higher-end stories and represent people who are under-represented” played out better on paper than in reality, says Heyward. Add to this the fact that United States viewers were hesitant to accept a network associated with the Arab world.
According to Mr. Anstey, AJAM will focus on increasing its digital presence throughout the country after the cable network shuts down. This expansion will “bring new global content into America,” says Anstey.
What kind of content, I can’t help but wonder. The network came under serious criticism last December when it aired a documentary that linked NFL and MLB stars with performance-enhancing drugs. Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning claims the report was “totally made up.” AJAM also faces defamation suits from baseball players Ryan Zimmerman and Ryan Howard.
“I’m sure it’s going to be just devastating to all their viewers,” said Peyton Manning sarcastically when informed of the company’s imminent shut down.
Editor’s Commentary: This organization was always intended to be pro-Islamic propaganda, funded by the vast amounts of oil money flowing into the Middle East. Oil revenues are currently way down. So some of the radical Islamist activities have had to be curtailed. Hint to the next President, if you suck the money out of the Middle East they will have fewer resources to attack the West.