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When Al Jazeera America (AJAM) launched in late August 2013, it was rather well received by its American audience. Purchasing Current TV for US$500 million, owned by Al Gore, it promised to provide the alternative news coverage and analysis on American politics that many viewers seemed to crave. However, less than three years later, it seems it was simply not meant to be. After announcing that the channel will shut down in April 2016, AJAM CEO Al Antsey said their business model wasn’t “sustainable in light of the economic challenges in the U.S. media marketplaces.” On a lighter note, some people claim AJAM’s shutdown is due to the declining oil prices, despite Qatar being a massive natural gas exporter.
So, what really happened? While Antsey’s statement is valid, it must be noted that AJAM always had a tough task on their hands. There were a few internal rows, but there is more to it as well. In the digital age where a television channel can be live-streamed anywhere in the world on its website or on a mobile app, could this be a case of redundancy? Al Jazeera English has been a huge hit among international audiences, and with AJ+ providing an interesting and innovating method of sharing the news via social media platforms, AJAM was struggling to stand out from its peers. Unfortunately, with the shutdown of AJAM, many talented reporters, journalists, producers, and other workers will lose their jobs, but one can hope that their skills will now be put into something that will shine in the long term.