Monday, September 28, 2015

Al Jazeera America Struggles to Survive

Al Jazeera America Struggles to Survive

by Stephen Lendman

In December 2012, Al Jazeera News channel (JNC) bought Al Gore’s Current TV for a reported $500 million. It acquired a potential audience reach of 40 million households.

It’s headquartered in New York with 12 nationwide news bureaus in major US cities. It combines global news with programming tailored for American viewers.

JNC is owned and operated by Qatar’s monarchy - like other Gulf states, a major human rights abuser, including forced labor, migrant workers horrifically exploited.

JNC lost credibility long ago, abandoning professionalism, objectivity and hard truths. It features state-controlled propaganda - like US major media only foreign owned.

Al Jazeera America (AJAM) operates by the same standard as its Doha-based parent. In August 2013, it debuted - still struggling to attract viewers.

Qatar is oil and gas rich, able to subside AJAM - for how long remains to be seen. It wants US viewers. Without enough, it may cut its losses and shut down.

In May, the New York Times reported its newsroom in turmoil. Its CEO Ehab Al Shihabi said his goal was “to win the mind and the heart of the American audience.” Ratings and profit margin are “critical.”

Two years later - no profits, poor ratings. Its audience size is a meager 30,000 viewers nightly. Top executives left. Employees cite grievances, reflecting dysfunctional management. Some reported a culture of fear.

Former senior vice president Marcy McGinnis said the newsroom is in “disarray behind the scenes” - a view shared by current and former staff.

On September 28, the Financial Times picked up the story. Last spring, Shihabi was sacked, Al Anstey replaced him. Employees challenged him, accusing him of “putting the cart before the horse,” adding:

“You first have to figure out how to put on television with workflows and a system that makes sense. There are so many structural flaws in the organisation that it does not matter what the vision is.”

Anstey told the FT change “takes time. We’re beginning to see some of the changes.” AJAM nearly imploded from a $15 million discrimination lawsuit,  three lost female executives, and its founding CEO replaced.

“The teams here lived through some very rocky times. It was an aggressive timeline to launch,” said Anstey. “There was quite a fast pace, I think, set by my predecessor, and that created certain challenges and certain disquiets which did resonate before my arrival.”

He admitted he has “burning fires” to extinguish, including lawsuits from former staff charging sexism and bias. He faces reports that his parent company intends cutting around 1,000 jobs.

The FT said AJAM is expected to be spared - for how long is the question. Qatar’s deep pockets aren’t as full with low energy prices. It may be less tolerant about sustaining losses with less US reach than expected.

Stiff competition has its viewership near-bottom rated among cable channels. It’s having a hard time gaining US viewer trust.

Maybe if it adopted RT International’s approach to TV news, it could match its success. Its global reach exceeds 700 million people in over 100 countries.

It’s the leading news operation on You Tube with over 2.5 billion views and nearly three million subscribers - astonishing success since its December 2005 launch. 

It’s gaining audience share in America by reporting hard truths, dispelling US misinformation and Big Lies, repeated by US media scoundrels, losing viewers (and readers) for failing to deliver what people want - the truth!

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 

His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."

Visit his blog site at 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs.