The Death of Al-Jazeera America and its Implications

Allie Sullberg/Staff Illustrator

Karen Mejia

Growing up, when my dad came home from work, he immediately turned on CNN to catch up on current events. Because of this, watching the news became a part of my routine, and although my housemates and I don’t watch CNN everyday, it is one of the four channels on rotation.

I’m sure many of you, like myself, do not have the time to sit in front of the TV to watch and digest the news everyday. We are all busy with work, studying for upcoming midterms, working on research papers and hopefully squeeze enough time at the end of the day for some Netflix. While I do sometimes like watching the news, especially during election years, I usually just read the Daily Beast or go to the CNN breaking news Twitter feed.

Though many cable news channels have been able to sustain a following, it is a different case for Al Jazeera America, which will close down their network on April 30, 2016. CEO Al Anstey states that the closing is “driven by the fact that our business model is simply not sustainable in light of the economic challenges in the U.S. media marketplace.”

Some believe Al Jazeera was not able to sustain a following because they are funded by the state of Qatar, making them feel their news could be skewed. After reading more about the company, I learned that their focus is on more in-depth investigative pieces, and try to report on stories that go unnoticed by their competitors. Their television program Fault Lines has been nominated and won numerous awards, especially for their episode “Haiti in a Time of Cholera,” which investigated who was accountable for the Cholera epidemic that took place.

As their network closes, Al Jazeera will have to find ways to capture and sustain a loyal audience. Their closing statement said they are trying to create more digital content for multiple screens and media platforms. Again, being a college student, the one platform that comes to mind is Netflix. Many television programs have chosen to forgo traditional television and cable networks in favor of online subscription services like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu. Chelsea Lately was one of my favorite late night shows to watch, and after not renewing her contract with E!, Chelsea Handler chose to move her show to Netflix. Making a Murderer, the documentary series, has become a new hit for Netflix as well.

I feel that Al Jazeera would do well if they moved their documentary programs like Fault Lines to a subscription-based service. I know I’ve scrolled endlessly on Netflix to try and find something to watch, pick a show I’ve never heard anything about and actually be pleasantly surprised, or worse, binge watched an entire season in one day.

As for their regular news shows and other programming, I am not too sure what could be done. The Al Jazeera English network is popular with audiences, so they might find a way to broadcast their English division to the U.S. Another thing some networks are doing is creating a Snapchat account that allows followers to watch small clips of news programs or breaking news stories. I feel that this would also work in their favor; by having small clips of their segments, this could then direct a viewer from Snapchat to their website and allow them to build a larger audience.

I hope Al Jazeera is successful in its expansion of their digital content and that they remain a competitor among those news networks that have become predictable. For now, I will keep following their Twitter feed and website while I patiently wait for their next move.