The media zone, twofour54, aims at developing an indigenous media industry in the Arab Emirates
Dubai and Abu Dhabi are vying with each other to become not just the cultural hub of the Arab Emirates but also its media axis. The recently launched media zone in Abu Dhabi, twofour54, aims at developing an indigenous media industry, staffed by the local people.
Named after the geographical coordinates of Abu Dhabi, 24 degrees North of the Equator and 54 degrees East of the Greenwich Meridian, the zone envisages establishing the city as a centre of excellence for Arabic content with international flavour. After the launch, Tony Orsten, chief executive officer of twofour54, explained to media persons how the zone would be unique, how the regional content developed would not have a Western slant and how the zone proposed to work in association with the Dubai Media City. “The focus will be on a wide spectrum, from films and music to publishing,” he said.
The 2,00,000-sq.m project, will take over five years to complete. “At present we have 71 people working for us, and in 12-16 months time, we will have a strength of over 1,000,” he said. The zone has already attracted several large content creation companies worldwide, including CNN, BBC, Thomson Foundation, Random House, Harper Collins, Financial Times, Rotana Studios and Thomson Reuters Foundation.
The presence of some of these partners was viewed quite sceptically by journalists from West Asia. They were incredulous about the content the zone would be able to create post 9/11 with these partners. Orsten tried to convince the journalists that though they were talking of a free media platform it would function within the ‘laws of the land, censorship and culture’.
A credible, home-grown news media is very often reflective of an open and developed nation. Credible journalism is not simply expounding arbitrarily on controversial issues. “The goal is developing a professional cadre of confident journalists and informative news sources that will help create transparency in government and industry as well as foster the national public interest.”
Training is one of the four pillars around which twofour54 is built. Tadreeb, the learning academy, is planned to be the region’s premier vocational training academy targeting young Arabs and graduates hoping for a career in the industry. It will also provide space for existing media and entertainment professionals to update their skills. The other facilities of the zone include Ibtikar that will ‘provide innovation support and funding for new businesses and promising creative ideas’ across different media platforms in the UAE; Intaj that will focus on ‘supplying state-of-the-art production and post-production facilities, media asset management, broadcast and technical support services for use within twofour54;’ and Tawasol, a one-stop shop that will provide ‘holistic services through its support and property management departments.’
This initiative is what makes twofour54 unique and different from Dubai Media City. This new venture is more a breeding ground for local talent than just a business park. “We are looking to work in collaboration with DMC, as complementary to other media parks,” said a senior executive of the Abu Dhabi media zone.
The media zone, like so many of the projects lined up by the government is evidence of what money and over spenders can do. It is then no surprise that big media houses have decided to set up shop and put in their resources for space in this media zone. So soon Harper Collins, from a government-backed initiative, will create a new range of Arabic dictionaries into English, French and Hindi and CNN broadcasting live daily prime time news in Arabic, even read by an Emirati news anchor.
twofour54 was launched at a simple function by General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces. This was followed by a cultural extravaganza in the evening that had English pop band Duran Duran sending the journo crowd rocking along with performances by local artistes.K. PRADEEP