Launched to much fanfare in late 2012, the US offshoot of the Qatar based Al Jazeera is set to shut its doors in April with the loss of hundreds of jobs.
Al Jazeera America will shutter its cable TV and digital operations by April 30, 2016. Image: AFP/Al Jazeera America
Al Jazeera America will shutter its cable TV and digital operations by April 30, 2016. Image: AFP/Al Jazeera America

The channel promised to shake up the US news industry by providing in-depth, high quality and well-sourced news by offering “editorial excellence” and an alternative to brash “infotainment” driven news. Its arrival was seen as positive at a time when many US networks were downsizing their overseas staff and increasing their use of parachute journalism.

Even so, Al Jazeera’s foray into US cable television was widely seen as a bold move in a media climate dominated by well-established broadcasters and the rapid audience growth of online news services.

Yet despite huge investments acessing the US market with a plethora of high profile on-air talents, the channel suffered from the outset with dismal ratings in comparison to other network players. This was fuelled by an inability to establish contracts with cable TV providers such as Time Warner Cable and AT&T, leaving the broadcaster with access to 60million homes compared to the 100million with access to cable.

Funded by the Qatari Royal Family, the channel’s woes grew further with a reduction in crude oil prices, with the organisation as a whole considering cuts as a result.

In an all-hands staff meeting on 13 January, Al Jazeera America executives explained that the channel’s business model was “no longer sustainable”, although the shutdown was no reflection on the work of their staff.

In a press release confirming the closure of Aljazeera America, CEO Al Anstey said;

I greatly respect the unrivalled commitment and excellent work of our team, which has created great journalism… We have increasingly set ourselves apart from all the rest, and the achievements of the past two-and-a-half years should be a source of immense pride for everyone.

Despite Al Jazeera’s struggle with broadcast media, its digital news and opinion sites are flourishing, finding large audiences among American News consumers. Despite this, Al Jazeera is still likely to close its US based digital services but will maintain its Al Jazeera English outlet.

You can read the full statement to employees by CEO Al Anstey here