While low oil prices have been great for motorists in the United States, it’s hasn’t been great for the struggling channel Al Jazeera America.
According to CNN Money, the record low oil prices have been a factor in the Doha, Qatar based media company deciding to shut down it’s Al Jazeera America channel on April 30, 2016, affecting around 700 staff members, who could lose their jobs.
“Al Jazeera Media Network had to cut, and instead of making it across the board or anywhere else, they decided to chop Al Jazeera America,” said a source at the company’s headquarters in Doha.
The website also reported that earlier this month, the Al Jazeera Media Group, had been planning to make cuts everywhere due to falling oil prices. For the first time in 12 years, the price of oil has been below $30 a barrel, and this is said to be significant for the company because they are owned by the government of Qatar, a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (or OPEC).
According to Petro Global News, a website dedicated to oil related news, Qatar is dependent on oil and gas revenues, which account for around 55 percent of their gross domestic product.
CBS News described the situation regarding the oil prices as “the network’s death knell.”
The company released a press release on January 13, which stated that “the economic landscape of the media environment” is the driving force behind the decision to end its operations, despite having a dedicated audience across the United States.
“Since its launch in 2013, the work done by the team at Al Jazeera America has been recognized with nearly every major award an American news organization can receive,” said Al Anstey, CEO of Al Jazeera America. “I greatly respect the unrivaled commitment and excellent work of our team, which has created great journalism.”
Rob Long, a Hollywood writer and producer, has blamed the channel’s failure partly on viewing patterns of people like himself in an article titled “How Al Jazeera America fluffed its lines” for The National.
“I’ve etched some pathways through the vast number of channels on offer, but the difference is, I have no interest in changing my patterns,” said Long.
In a report for CNN Money, Brian Stelter and Tom Kludt noted that many viewers didn’t bother to try to find the channel or simply couldn’t find it. When the State of the Union Address was aired recently, the struggling channel was said to have 64,000 viewers, while Fox News and CNN each pulled in 3 million.
“Some hours were lucky to have 10,000 people watching,” said Stelter and Kludt.
Long also blames the closure on their early advertising in 2013, which made it unclear about how viewers could find the channel.
“The smart and sophisticated advertisements were too busy creating ‘brand awareness’ to do the real job at hand, which was to get me to break into my neural television-watching pathways and add another junction,” said Long, who described their advertisements and billboards as elegant and “strikingly smart-looking.”
“A new television news channel is always welcome – American television news, in particular, suffers from a certain kind of myopia – but sadly, Al Jazeera America fumbled the opportunity,” said Long. “They forgot the key to effective advertising: always show the burger.”
Stelter and Kludt also reported that the channel was hindered from the start because of the ignorance and arrogance of Al Jeezera‘s executives, particularly the founding CEO Ehab Al Shihabi. He boldly proclaimed that the channel would match CNN‘s ratings, yet was said not to know much about American television news.
Meanwhile, the company announced on Thursday, that three of their journalists were kidnapped in Taiz, Yemen and have demanded for their release, according to The Guardian. Mostefa Souag, the acting director general of Al Jazeera Media Network, said that the abductors of the journalists are held “responsible for their safety and security.”
“Our colleagues were simply doing their job of reporting the story and informing the world of what is taking place in Yemen,” said Souag.
[Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images]