The Shutdown of Al Jazeera America, One More Failed Media Project

In TV, the bias of “winner takes all” is especially strong, and Al Jazeera America succumbed to low ratings, an identity crisis and an adverse market. The network announced the shutdown of its operation by April 2016. This is bad for the hundreds of journalists and staff who will lose their jobs, in yet another case of media project failure (in the interests of full disclosure, the author of this FI column has been a contributor for the AJAM website). As is bound to happen, too, the company had some instances of hit and miss, yet all in all the quality of its reporting did not seem to be the problem. A losing TV operation can be very costly, and not even the well-endowed government of Qatar, owner of the network, could sustain it, especially at a time of low oil prices. This brings up an issue worth pondering: the money is essentially coming from the same coffers that also finance, let’s say, other government expenses, such as those linked to foreign policy, including towards Syria. And yet, freedom of expression gains from a diversity of voices, and it’s always sad to see one more going silent.

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