Al Jazeera America Network Lays Off Dozens

Friday, 11 Apr 2014 02:07 PM

By Bill Hoffmann

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Layoffs have hit Al Jazeera America.

The controversial cable news network — which is financed by the royal family of Qatar — has let "dozens of employees" go as part of a restructuring, reports The Hollywood Reporter.

"The majority of people affected were freelancers and many of the staff either came from the sports group or from 'The Stream,'" the network's spokesperson Dawn Bridges told the Reporter, referring to the dismantled sports department and scaling back at "The Stream," a social-media-based program.

Al Jazeera America was launched last August after buying former Vice President Al Gore's ratings-challenged Current TV.

It had about 850 employees and competes with such news outlets as CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, and Newsmax.

Al Jazeera America President Kate O'Brian said in a note to employees:

"In the seven months since launch we have built a channel that it took other networks years to do. As you all know, that required extensive effort, planning, and resources. We always understood that we would need considerable resources to meet our goals.

"This will have an immediate impact on some staff, freelancers, independent contractors, and other project-oriented individuals who have been with us for several months."

The network's launch was not without controversy.

On the same day it hit the airwaves, a longtime opponent warned Americans to be wary of Al Jazeera's alleged sympathies to the Muslim Brotherhood and other radical Islamist organizations.

"Al Jazeera is government-funded media — the government being that of the regime in Qatar, which is a state sponsor of terrorism," Cliff Kincaid, of the America's Survival group, dedicated to "the fight against global Jihad," told a conference at the National Press Club.

Kincaid cited reports that 22 staffers from Al Jazeera's Egyptian affiliate resigned to protest what they called the network's "biased coverage" in favor of the Muslim Brotherhood, to which deposed President Mohamed Morsi belongs.

At the time, Karem Mahmoud, formerly anchor at Al Jazeera's Egypt operations, told Gulf News that "the management in Doha provokes sedition among the Egyptian people and has an agenda against Egypt and other Arab countries."

Mahmoud charged that before every broadcast he made, "there are instructions to us to telecast certain news" that casts the Muslim Brotherhood in a favorable light.

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