Imagine waking up one day to the news that the company you work for simply ceased to exist.

For Al Jazeera America’s staff, such a scenario is far from being a breed of fiction. The cable news channel (AJAM) announced yesterday the termination of all its TV and digital operations on US territory.

AJAM CEO Al Anstey cited the unsustainability of the company’s business model in light of the economic challenges in a crowded US media marketplace as the reason behind this decision, set to go into effect by April 30.

“I know the closure of AJAM will be a massive disappointment for everyone here who has worked tirelessly for our long-term future,” Anstey wrote in a memo sent to the staff.

The closure comes after three years of in-depth reporting (earning prestigious Peabody, Emmy, Gracie, Eppy, and DuPont awards) and heavy spending (hiring top US journalists) by the Qatar-based broadcaster, in an attempt to break into the US market.

AJAM was initially intended as a ‘more serious’ alternative to news network competitors CNN, Fox News and MSNBC. But since its launch in 2013, the cable outlet struggled with modest viewership and internal turmoil, although its digital sites proved rather successful among American audiences.

Going back to what might be the essence of the problem, AJAM employees have been increasingly complaining about turmoil and discrimination inside the newsroom, prompting a number of lawsuits that ultimately resulted in the ousting of the channel’s founding CEO Ehab Al Shihabi.

Employees reported to have been operating under a culture of fear perpetuated by Al Jazeera network executives who believed they had to steer away from the slightest hints of opinion as a way of ‘Americanizing’ the brand in the eyes of US audiences.

Meanwhile, parent company Al Jazeera promised to significantly expand its digital operations in the US market after AJAM shuts down in April, a move that hardly amounts to more than a disproportionate consolation for its American following.


Avatar 1
Post to facebook