Seventeen months after its launch, Al Jazeera America is overhauling much of its programming schedule, with a heavier focus on live news and investigative reporting. In a memo to staffers Friday, Ehab Al Shihabi, the network’s chief executive, outlined changes slated to begin rolling out Feb. 2. Dubbed “Grid Changes and Road Map for 2015,” the memo highlights Al Jazeera America’s struggle to build and maintain an audience in what was a challenging year for cable news.
The network is expanding live news coverage to three hours a night, from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., starting with a national news hour followed by a show with “deeper dives and more investigation into specific issues,” Shihabi said.
“Real Money With Ali Velshi” is getting bumped to 10:30 p.m. from its current 7 p.m. slot and will “transition to a more hard-hitting program with emphasis on the impact of money and the accompanying accountability in all areas,” the memo said.
Other changes include moving the shows “Fault Lines” and “TechKnow” to mornings. “Consider This,” the weeknight current-events show hosted by Antonio Mora, is being scrapped in lieu of a yet-to-be announced program to be developed by the “Consider This” team.
Shihabi described the revised programming as a work in progress that is likely to change as the year unfolds.
Al Jazeera America has struggled in the ratings as it tests cable audiences’ appetite for straight news in an ever-growing sea of noise. The channel relies less on punditry and sensationalism than its more established counterparts, CNN, MSNBC and Fox News.
Shihabi said in the memo that, despite the programming overhaul, the channel is not wavering from its commitment to producing no-frills news:
“AJAM entered the market to fill a void and preserve the tradition of seriousness and excellence in news programming, at a time when many of our competitors have adopted a different tradition. They have blurred once clear lines between news and entertainment; between the serious and the trivial; between news and opinion; and between news that has an immediate and direct impact on peoples’ lives and news shaped primarily to attract and entertain audiences.”