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The decision to axe the Al Jazeera America will cause significant losses at the channel, expensively launched on the back of the $500 million purchase of Current TV – a purchase that is still subject to an ongoing series of lawsuits between former vice-president Al Gore and his partners, and Al Jazeera itself.
Al Jazeera America has also been beset by assorted grumbles from staffers citing racial discrimination and biased coverage. Despite plenty of awards and formal recognition there was also said to be considerable dissent between its US management and the Al Jazeera management in Doha, Qatar.
The channel, suggest local observers, might still continue in a cut-down ‘on line’ digital version, but that still needs local journalistic talent and at least some production values.
Key to the purchase of Current TV was the guaranteed access to Current’s cable distribution. That same distribution remains in place although whether Al Jazeera America will achieve anything like the $500 million it paid to Current remains to be seen.
Nevertheless there are signs that there are potential buyers seeking carriage access. One America News Network (OAN) is one such player. Owned by Herring Networks, ONA has some 4-times the ratings of Al Jazeera America and a spokesman for OAN told Multichannel News (January 13th) that they are keen to acquire certain assets including some of Al Jazeera’s operations in New York and Washington DC.
Herring Networks is based in San Diego, Calif., and has set out to be a conservative, but credible, news channel. It also owns the Wealth TV channel. It already has carriage on Verizon’s FiOS and AT&T’s U-Verse digital TV systems, and claims availability to some 15 million homes.