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Al Jazeera America Shutting Down After Years of Low Ratings

Al Jazeera America, the cable news station bankrolled by the government of Qatar, announced Wednesday that it would shut down by April 30.

Al Jazeera, the Arabic-language channel that has been accused by U.S. officials of being a mouthpiece for Qatari policy, founded its English-language American affiliate in 2013 after buying Current TV for $500 million from a collection of investors that included former Vice President Al Gore. The network spent millions hiring journalists and producers from channels like CNN and ABC. But the station was beset by low ratings: CNN estimated [1] that the channel usually gets as few as 20,000 primetime viewers per day, three percent [2] of MSNBC’s numbers and one percent of Fox News’s. The channel’s leadership told employees that its business model was “no longer sustainable,” Capital New York reported [3].

Al Jazeera America has been beset by controversy since its founding. The station’s CEO, Ehab Al Shihabi, was demoted [4] last year after three female executives resigned and multiple lawsuits were filed by former employees. One suite claimed [5] that the network treated female and non-Arab employees like “second class citizens,” and alleged that “as ratings failed to live up to the expectations of management, Al Jazeera openly decided to abandon all pretense of neutrality in favor of putting the Arabic viewpoint front and center, openly demanding that programs be aired that criticized countries such as America, Israel and Egypt.” Politico reported [6] that another lawsuit accused a senior supervisor of having “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.'”

The U.S. ambassador to Qatar wrote in a 2009 diplomatic cable [7], which was later released by Wikileaks, that he believed that Al Jazeera is “an informal tool of [the Government of Qatar’s] foreign policy.” Qatar also funds the terrorist group Hamas, which Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) noted [7] when he was interviewed on Al Jazeera America during the war between Israel and Hamas last year. Sherman’s comments, in which he blasted Al Jazeera America’s biased coverage, are embedded below:

“Viewers will see a news channel unlike the others, as our programming proves Al Jazeera America will air fact-based, unbiased and in-depth news,” Al Shihabi said [1] at the time of the network’s launch.

[Photo: WochitGeneralNews / YouTube [8] ]