Al Jazeera to shut down American news channel

The Wall Street Journal reports: When Al Jazeera America was launched to great fanfare in 2013, its then-leader boasted he didn’t have to worry too much about profits.

After all, the cable news channel was backed by the oil-and-gas-rich government of Qatar, and oil was trading around $100 a barrel.

On Wednesday, with oil trading near $30, Al Jazeera made an about-face, announcing it was shutting its American cable channel by April 30 for economic reasons.

“The economic landscape of the media environment has driven its strategic decision to wind down its operations and conclude its service,” wrote Al Anstey, an Al Jazeera executive who took over as chief executive of the American channel in May after its founding CEO was ousted in the wake of discrimination suits.

Charles Herring, president of Herring Broadcasting Co., which runs the conservative One America News Network, said his company is interested in buying the channel because of its valuable affiliation agreements. One America is currently available is about a quarter as many homes as Al Jazeera America and would like to put its channel in this wider footprint, he said. A spokesman for Al Jazeera declined to comment. Trade publication Multichannel News earlier reported Herring’s interest.

Partly as a result of its weak negotiating position, Al Jazeera America was forced to stop streaming Al Jazeera English online in the U.S., which had helped it build influence thanks to its close-up coverage of the Arab Spring. It was a condition of its deals with distributors, who are never fans of paying for channels that also put their content online free.

As part of its announcement on Wednesday, Al Jazeera said it will now “expand its existing international digital services to broaden its multiplatform presence in the United States.” [Continue reading…]

Hopefully this means the return of full online access to Al Jazeera English programming. Stay tuned…

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