Al Jazeera America will shutter its cable TV and digital operations by April 30 of this year, the company announced Wednesday. The decision by the AJAM board was “driven by the fact that our business model is simply not sustainable in light of the economic challenges in the U.S. media marketplace,” said AJAM CEO Al Anstey.
“I know the closure of AJAM will be a massive disappointment for everyone here who has worked tirelessly for our long-term future,” Anstey wrote in an email addressed to all the company’s employees. The decision was no reflection on the work of that staff, he said. “Our commitment to great journalism is unrivaled. We have increasingly set ourselves apart from all the rest. And you are the most talented team any organization could wish for.”
The announcement of AJAM’s closure coincides with a decision by its global parent company to commit to a significant expansion of its worldwide digital operations into the U.S. market.
“As audiences increasingly turn to multiple platforms, including mobile devices, for news and information, this expansion will allow U.S. and non-U.S. consumers alike to access the network’s journalism and content wherever and whenever they want,” the Al Jazeera Media Network said in a statement. “By expanding its digital content and distribution services to now include the U.S., the network will be better positioned to innovate and compete in an overwhelmingly digital world to serve today’s 24-hour digitally focused audience.”
Anstey praised the Al Jazeera America staff as “a brilliant team made up of the most committed, professional and dedicated people … In the months to come, we will do everything that we can to support you, to work with you and to ensure you are shown the respect you deserve.”
Despite its initial struggle for TV ratings, the newcomer network was quickly and repeatedly recognized by its industry peers for the excellence of its journalism. Within months of launching, AJAM began collecting prestigious prizes — from Peabody, Emmy, Gracie, Eppy and DuPont awards to a Shorty Award, for best Twitter newsfeed, and Newswomen’s Club of New York’s Front Page awards and citations from groups such as the National Association of Black Journalists and the Native American Journalism.
Anstey said AJAM made slow but steady progress in recent months in growing its audience. “Our editorial excellence was demonstrated time and time again on the major stories of recent months,” he wrote. “And we continue to win praise from our colleagues in the industry and from our viewers for the quality of our output.
He vowed that AJAM would maintain its standards of excellence until it goes dark.
“Between now and April, we will continue to show America why AJAM has won respect and the fierce loyalty of so many of our viewers,” Anstey wrote. “Through your remarkable work at AJAM, we have shown that there is a different way of reporting news and providing information. The foundation of this is integrity, great journalism, impartiality and a commitment to the highest quality story telling. This will be our lasting impact, and as we produce and showcase the best of our work in the weeks to come, this will be clear for everyone to see.”