US-israel’s media horn Al Jazeera cuts 500 jobs as oil pinch widens
The Qatar-based Al Jazeera broadcaster says it is showing the door to about 500 employees as the financial pinch from the oil price slump weighs on regional Arab producers.
The reduction would affect posts worldwide but up to 60 percent of the cuts or 300 positions would be made at the network’s Doha base, acting director general Mostefa Souag said on Sunday.
The first job losses could begin within the next week, AFP quoted a manager as saying.
The decision comes just two months after the network, funded by the Qatari government, said it would close Al Jazeera America in April, with the loss of around 700 jobs.
Qatar is facing its first budget deficit in over a decade this year amid slump in oil prices, which has hit the finances of Persian Gulf Arab countries hard.
On Sunday, Qatar edged down 0.1 percent as stocks in the six-nation Persian Gulf Cooperation Council fell. Dubai equities led the decline and were poised to extend the longest losing streak in more than two months after oil languished near $40 a barrel.
Stock markets across the region have collapsed amid panic among traders in response to a continued tumble of oil and global equity prices.
Iran has been an exception, where stocks have roared to a two-year high, driven by continued optimism about prospects of an economic growth following the lifting of sanctions.
Ironically, Saudi Arabia is behind the price collapse after raising output to record levels in a bid to put the shale oil out of the market or possibly pressure Iran and Russia with their balance sheets.
The tiny sheikhdom of Qatar is a major gas and oil producer but has been forced to announce belt-tightening measures, scaling back a number of grandiose vanity projects for the 2022 World Cup.
In December, Qatar’s emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani castigated what he called “wasteful spending, overstaffing and a lack of accountability.”
In the US, the broadcaster spent millions of dollars on hiring journalists, which failed to bring viewers to its news program.
Souag, however, tried to put a positive spin on the redundancy plan, saying he was confident the “difficult” decision was the “right step.”
The move was “a workforce optimization initiative that will allow us to evolve our business operation” in response to “the ongoing transformation of the media landscape,” he said.