Al-Jazeera America signs off after less than three years
Washington (AFP) – Al-Jazeera America was set to sign off Tuesday after a costly and failed effort to break into the US cable news market.
The channel launched in 2013 by the global media group based in Qatar won praise for its news coverage, but fell far short of viewership and advertising goals.
The shutdown, announced in January, was set to be complete with the airing of a three-hour special Tuesday evening showcasing the channel’s coverage since the launch.
“We have been privileged to cover stories of people who epitomize the strength and resilience of the human spirit. Individuals who have fought for good, who have tackled adversity, whose stories and voices deserve coverage,” the group said in a statement.
“There are so many more people across America whose stories remain untold. Those stories need to be heard.”
Al-Jazeera, which operates one of the largest global news operations and is controlled by Qatar’s royal family, paid some $500 million to launch the US channel known as AJAM.
The outlet, which competed against CNN, MSNBC and Fox News Channel, did not release viewership data but some reports said its audience was only around 30,000 for the key prime-time hours.
In mid-2013, the channel went live after hiring some 850 staff and opening 12 bureaus across the United States and a state-of-the art studio in New York.
It faced a series of problems in addition to low viewership: lawsuits alleged an unhospitable work environment and the channel faced criticism for its report linking NFL star Peyton Manning to a banned growth hormone.
However, AJAM was recognized for its reporting, including winning Emmy and Peabody awards.
Some analysts said the launch came at a time when viewers were moving away from traditional cable news to Internet-based news from organizations like Vice Media, BuzzFeed and Huffington Post.
Al Jazeera said in a statement it intends to expand its digital services to “broaden its multi-platform presence into the US later this year.”