The Reading Room

Al Jazeera USA to end

It began amidst much fanfare in 2013. But now, less than three years after its launch news emerges that Al-Jazeera America is to end. The news outlet which is owned by Qatar-based Al Jazeera will cease all operations by the end of April.

What went wrong?  It is true that the channel was prepared for initially low ratings from the outset but AJAM (as it became known) hoped its unique brand of expensive but high quality investigative journalism would lead it to outshine its rivals.

Anyone hoping that the new channel would lead to a shift towards a more global focus for the already USA-centric American media, would have been disappointed. It focused on US domestic stories in a bid to compete with the likes of the ultra-conservative Fox Network. It didn’t work. Al Jazeera America is thought to have never have broken the million mark, ratings-wise. Fox News averaged 1.95m viewers in the third quarter of 2015. AJAM is generally thought to have had between 20,000 and 40,000 viewers in primetime.

They were perhaps also harmed by their Middle East connections, and definitely damaged by accusations (strongly refuted) of an anti-western bias and by a series of protracted legal battles.

In the end, however, economics was indeed crucial: the fall in global oil prices has affected the Qatar-based financers of Al Jazeera more than most.

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