Al-Jazeera America, the U.S. news network backed by the ruling family of Qatar, will sign off for good after a three-hour farewell broadcast on Tuesday.
Though the media outlet struggled to gain traction in the U.S., NPR's media correspondent David Folkenflik reports that it held the promise of a noncommercial approach to television news. David says that "after an earlier channel called Al-Jazeera English failed to make a dent in the U.S., Al-Jazeera America was built on the acquisition of a liberal cable network called Current." He adds:
"The deal intended to ensure major distribution, but some cable providers resisted, saying that was a bait and switch. Al-Jazeera executives also promised the channel would not distribute its shows online, which meant that much of its content never became available digitally. Internal strife proved common and Al-Jazeera America never caught on — drawing audiences in the tens of thousands. Ultimately, the channel's Qatari patrons pulled the plug."
Al-Jazeera America was launched in the summer of 2013, but — as we reported in January when the network announced it would be shutting down — management problems and paltry ratings soon spelled its demise.
The network's goal was to produce serious journalism and thorough reports, and it won several awards during its short run, including a Peabody and an Emmy. Its most well-known documentary was an expose that alleged several professional athletes used performance-enhancing drugs. Much of the evidence, however, hinged on the word of one person, Charlie Sly, a former intern at an Indianapolis clinic, who later recanted his story. The documentary was slammed by former NFL quarterback Peyton Manning, one of the athletes implicated in the story, and prompted defamation lawsuits from Major League Baseball players Ryan Zimmerman and Ryan Howard.
The news organization will shut down Tuesday night following a three-hour live farewell designed to highlight the network's three years of work. The Associated Press reports that the show begins at 6 p.m. and will be run twice before the the network goes dark.