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Al Jazeera America shutting down cable channel, U.S. operations

Al Jazeera America editorial newsroom staff prepare

Al Jazeera America editorial newsroom staff prepare for their first broadcast in New York on Aug. 20, 2013. Cable news network Al Jazeera America says it is shutting down just two-and-a-half years after its launch. Photo Credit: AP / Bebeto Matthews

PASADENA, Calif. — The Al Jazeera America cable news network said Wednesday it will shut down two and a half years after its launch, a victim of a rough business environment and political headwinds it could not conquer.

The channel, an offshoot of the Qatar-based Al Jazeera cable network, had trouble persuading cable and satellite companies to carry it, and viewers to watch. It failed despite a promise to offer serious-minded journalism and some award-winning work.

The cable network will shut down on April 30. It launched in October 2013.

Al Anstey, CEO of Al Jazeera America, said the economic climate for media forced the decision. “Al Jazeera America is committed to conducting this process in a way that is consistent with its respect for colleagues,” Anstey said.

Al Jazeera will expand its international digital news operations so they will be available in the United States, Anstey said, adding that details will be available in the next few months.

“I’m not sure it was inevitable, but it’s certainly not surprising,” said Philip Seib, a University of Southern California journalism professor and author of the book “The Al Jazeera Effect.” “In the news environment today there is so much competition that it is virtually impossible for a new company to get any traction.”

Anstey had taken over last spring after the news network’s CEO, Ehab Al Shihabi, was dismissed. The company was the target of lawsuits from former employees who had complained about a culture of fear, and anti-Semitic and sexist behavior among executives. Al Jazeera also could not overcome suspicion among some potential viewers about its motives bred in the years after the 2001 terrorist attacks.

Last month, Al Jazeera America was honored with an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University journalism award for a documentary that depicted the lives of working class Americans.

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