Al Jazeera to to lay off 500 staff as part of 'optimisation' plan

Al Jazeera Media Network's leadership says "difficult" decision is the "right step" to ensure competitiveness
Al Jazeera to to lay off 500 staff as part of 'optimisation' plan
(Getty Images)
By Staff writer
Sun 27 Mar 2016 04:05 PM

Doha-based Al Jazeera Media Network announced on Sunday that it will shed around 500 positions worldwide as part of a “workforce optimisation initiative”.

The media group, which is controlled by Qatar's royal family, said that most of the job losses will be in Qatar and come as a result of changes that it said are being made in conjunction with the ongoing transformation of the media landscape. Before the lay-offs, the network said it had about 4,000 staff

“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 underway in the global media landscape," said Mostefa Souag, the acting director general of the Network.

“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.

He added: "While our decision is consistent with those being made across the media industry worldwide, it was difficult to make nonetheless. However, we are confident it is the right step to ensure the Network's long-term competitiveness and reach."

News of the losses comes after the network announced that is shutting down its US television and digital operations from April 30 this year, citing a tough business climate for media companies.

Founded in 1996 as part of Qatar's efforts to turn its economic power into political influence, Al Jazeera won millions of viewers across the Arab world by offering free-wheeling, uncensored debate rarely seen on other local broadcasters. It has grown to include multiple channels and today boasts more than 70 bureaus worldwide.

But Qatar appears to have toned down its diplomatic profile under emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, who took power in 2013 and has spoken about the need for austerity at a time of low oil prices.

Al Jazeera also has faced increasing competition in its home region, and suspicion among many governments over the air time it gave to Islamist groups in Syria, Libya and elsewhere.

Al Jazeera is the latest state-funded institution to cut staff as the government reacts to shrunken oil and gas revenue. There were widespread layoffs in the energy sector last year. In January this year, state-owned health provider Hamad Medical Corp laid off hundreds of employees.

(With agencies)

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