Al Jazeera America Brought Down By Cheap Oil

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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Al Jazeera, an OPEC-backed news outlet, will be laying off hundreds of employees and shutting down its U.S. branch as cheap oil continues to crunch the Qatari government’s budget.

Al Jazeera announced 500 layoffs Sunday, building on the news group’s January decision to shut down it’s U.S. news branch less than three years after launching. In total, Al Jazeera is shedding 700 jobs from its 3,500 person staff once it’s America branch ceases operations in April.

CNN Money pointed to low oil prices as a major reason for the cuts at the Qatar-backed news outlet. Qatar’s decision to shed Al Jazeera America is “tied to the falling price of oil,” according to CNN, adding the “Middle Eastern emirate is highly dependent on oil and gas revenues.”

Qatar, a member of OPEC, has been hit hard by plunging oil prices since the summer of 2014. Qatar announced in December it was headed for a nearly $13 billion budget deficit because of low-priced oil — though this figure was calculated at $48 per barrel and prices right now are hovering around $40 a barrel.

Several Al Jazeera staffers told CNN the staff cuts aren’t just hitting U.S. news coverage, but also the news outlet’s Arabic-speaking channel.

“The majority” of the job cuts will hit Al Jazeera’s headquarters, according to a staffer.

“The Qatar government is much leaner than before,” a staffer told CNN, specifically citing low oil prices.

“Over the past few months, we have carefully evaluated every option available to the Network in order to ensure that we are best positioned in light of the large-scale changes under way in the global media landscape,” Mostefa Souag, the acting director general of Al Jazeera, said in a statement Sunday.

“Based on this review, we have embarked on a workforce optimisation initiative that will allow us to evolve our business operation in order to maintain a leading position and continue our recognised commitment to high-quality, independent and hard-hitting journalism around the world,” Mostefa said.

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