Al Jazeera America on Wednesday announced that it has removed Ehab Al Shihabi as its chief executive officer. The moves comes amid extremely low ratings for the network and reports of turmoil in the newsroom.
The Qatar-funded network, which launched in the U.S. in 2013 after spending $500 million to purchase Current TV, has appointed Al Jazeera English Managing Director Al Anstey as its new CEO.
"As Al Jazeera America moves forward into this new stage of its development, I am confident Al’s leadership will transform the channel’s ability to lead in the US marketplace," Mostefa Souag, the chairman of the channel's board of directors, said in a statement.
The upheaval came on the same day the New York Times published an article probing the struggling newsroom, which was reported to be plagued by low morale and a fear of Al Shihabi.
“I didn’t want to be there anymore because I didn’t like the culture of fear," Marcy McGinnis, the station's former senior vice president for newsgathering, told the Times after resigning Monday. “People are afraid to lose their jobs if they cross Ehab.”
McGinnis left the network on the same week two other top figures resigned and one former employee filed a lawsuit against the company alleging anti-Semitism and sexual discrimination, the Times reported.
According to the Times:
"Last week, at a newsroom-wide meeting described by several employees, staff members complained bitterly about problems at the station: how women have lost their jobs; the fear that offering criticism will lead to retaliation; the lack of promotional efforts for the channel; and how the standards for internal reviews changed without any announcement."
The newspaper also reported that executives refused to offer explanations to staff when colleagues stopped showing up at work or television reporters were taken off the air.
The channel only manages to attract roughly 30,000 viewers a night, while other stations boast figures in the hundreds of thousands or, as in the case of FOX News, above 1 million.
In a statement Monday, the company described recent reports on its newsroom as "false and malicious."
"Al Jazeera America does not tolerate any discriminatory conduct and we take great pride in the diversity of our organization and its leadership," then-CEO Al Shihabi said. "The recent attacks on us as being anti-Semitic, sexist and anti-American are absurd."
Prior to joining Al Jazeera America, Al Shihabi had served as a management consultant, but never as a journalist.
In contrast, Asntey assumes the top job having worked at CBS News, Reuters, the Associated Press Television News, and British channel ITN.