The Al Jazeera broadcasting network announced on Sunday to lay off 500 employees or over 10 percent of its workers, suggesting financial threats in the Gulf state led by declines on prices of oil and natural gas.
According to Al Jazeera, the majority of those affected are mainly based at Doha headquarters and is run by the royal family of Qatar. Meanwhile, a spokesman mentioned that the news network had around 4,000 employees before the lay-offs.
The acting director-general of Al Jazeera Mostefa Souag said that the news network is obliged to conduct the lay-offs in order to continue its position in the industry "in light of the large-scale changes under way in the global media landscape".
In 1996, Qatar initiates to direct its economic power into political influence. Thus, the news network had gained millions of viewers throughout the Arab world by means of offering free-wheeling, including uncensored debate hardly witnessed on a few local broadcasters.
Subsequently, the country is likely to have toned down its diplomatic profile in emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, who took power in the last three years and voiced out the need for austerity as oil prices decline.
Ahead of the tight competition in the region, Al Jazeera has struggled and was questioned over the air time it provide to Islamist groups in countries like Syria and Libya.
After the high-profile of Al Jazeera was launched in January, it has stated that the U.S. cable news outlet would be closed in a time frame of less than three years.
Furthermore, the news network is considered as the latest-state funded institution to cut employees as the government respond to a weaker revenue of oil and gas. A wide spread of layoffs sparked in the energy sector in the previous year, while this year’s January-month, about hundreds of employees were laid off by the state-owned health provider Hamad Medical Corp.
Reduction in Workforce
According to Al Jazeera, the laying off were in line with changes in the worldwide media. Hence, numbers of organizations were forced to cut staffs as well as tighten budgets, considering that the state-funded channel will get hurt by declining oil prices.
The decision will lead Al-Jazeera’s global staff down by 4,500, or over 10%.
Mostefa Souag, an acting director general, said the news network had consumed months assessment options, “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.”
The Al-Jazeera was launched as a news channel with an Arabic-language in 1996. It has massively contributed to the reporting of the region and grew, suggesting a global impact for over 70 bureaus worldwide. Meanwhile, another news channel with an English-language was released in 2006.
The Al-Jazeera later announced in January to close its American cable news channel, which was released in October 2013 after having low ratings consecutively.
Ahead of dropping oil prices, crude was sold at $40 (£28) a barrel compared to over $100 last two years. Thus, it has led the country to cut its other state-funded institutions, including laying off staffs in the energy sector. Though government spending were slashed, the Gulf state continues to expect on running a budget deficit of over $12bn this 2016.
However, the news channel redundancies could give back a weakening enthusiasm by rulers in Doha for the soft power, including foreign influence presented by the broadcaster. Its mission says to “provide a voice for the voiceless in some of the most underreported places on the planet”.
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