Al Jazeera America Hit By Resignations, Discrimination Lawsuit, and Continued Low Ratings

A third female executive of Al Jazeera America (AJAM), the American division of the Qatari-based broadcaster, resigned this week, Adweek reported Monday. The departure of Marcy McGinnis, senior vice president of outreach for the station, followed those of Diana Lee and Dawn Bridges, two other executives with AJAM, and the filing of a $15 million lawsuit against the station last week charging it with sexism and anti-Semitism.

In a letter announcing her departure, McGinnis wrote:

Today I am resigning my position at Al Jazeera America. Last week, Ehab [Al Shihabi, AJAM’s CEO,] reminded us at the Senior Leadership meeting and again at the All Hands meeting that anyone who felt they could not support the decisions or direction set forth by him and the Al Jazeera Media Network would be welcome to leave. I find myself at that crossroads now and so have decided to resign.

McGinnis worked at CBS News for thirty years. When AJAM was launched, it made a point of hiring staff from established American news networks to give the impression that the news it presented would be objective and independent of interference from corporate headquarters in Qatar.

The lawsuit alleging sexism and anti-Semitism in the AJAM newsroom was filed by former employee Matthew Luke. Politico reported:

Matthew Luke, who started with the network in 2013 ahead of its launch as supervisor of media and archive management, filed the lawsuit in New York Supreme Court on Tuesday. In it, he alleges that Osman Mahmud, who rose through the ranks to become Luke’s supervisor as senior vice president of broadcast operations and technology, removed female employees from projects, excluded women from emails and meetings and made discriminatory, anti-Semitic and anti-American remarks such as “whoever supports Israel should die a fiery death in hell.”

Not long after Luke went to human resources to report on the behavior, he alleges he was told he did not fit into the company’s culture and was fired.

Politico also reported:

The network, the American arm of the popular and widespread Al Jazeera network, was launched with big budgets and great fanfare last year after buying Current TV. But the network has struggled mightily in ratings and, according to the New York Post, is starting to lay off staffers and substitute more programming from Al Jazeera English.

AJAM launched in August 2013, saddled with the dubious reputation of its corporate parent. America’s ambassador to Qatar was quoted in a leaked confidential cable calling the station “an informal tool of [the Government of Qatar’s] foreign policy.”

Last year, after only one year of broadcasting, AJAM cut back on its programming and staff amid falling ratings. In January of this year, continued poor ratings forced AJAM to cut even more personnel and original programming.

[Photo: AFP news agency / YouTube ]