Al Jazeera Slashes News Staff Across The Globe, As Focus Shifts To Sports

By Alex Weprin Comment

Bloomberg Businessweek writes about a new course for Al Jazeera, the news and media organization founded by the ruling family of Qatar. BW says that the company has been making substantial cuts in news across the world, including to Al Jazeera English in the U.S., even as its spends millions on on sports television rights.

Al Jazeera has spent nearly half a billion dollars on soccer rights in France so far, plus an undisclosed amount to broadcast in other markets. More deals may be on the way. England’s Premier League, home to popular teams like Manchester United, last week began taking bids for the U.S. rights to broadcast its games, and analysts expect Al Jazeera to bid. “The Qataris believe investing heavily in sports will give them a return on their global image,” says Frank Dunne, the editor of TV Sports Markets.

In other words, Al Jazeera English was never able to gain any traction in the U.S., and had limited traction in other English-language countries. Sports, on the other hand, are universal, and could be the key to unlocking that distribution.

Elsewhere, The Guardian notes that leaders at the network ordered staffers to change a story about the U.N. General Assembly, in order to make it lead with comments from the Emir of Qatar:

Journalists had produced a package of the UN debate, topped with excerpts of President Obama’s speech, last Tuesday when a last-minute instruction came from Salah Negm, the Qatar-based news director, who ordered the video to be re-edited to lead with the comments from Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani.