The government of Abu Dhabi has launched a media free zone authority called twofour54 in the UAE capital last month as part of an aggressive strategy to enable the generation of Arabic content in the region. As part of these efforts, twofour54 has already partnered with several international media heavyweights such as CNN International, National Geographic Films, Sky Pictures and BBC among others to get the project off the ground.
Twofour54 will incorporate four main areas, namely Intaj, which will take care of establishing state-of-the-art studio and post facilities within the zone; tadreeb, a vocational training academy designed to develop the skills of its students and provide practical training across a range of media disciplines; ibtikar, which will provide funding for local content creation and tawasol, the department that will provide new businesses with a one-stop window to take care of the red tape.
“We have tried to distinguish ourselves from other media free zones in the region by ensuring that we are not just a real-estate zone,” claimed Tony Orsten, CEO of twofour54. “Rather, twofour54, which stands for the geographical coordinates of Abu Dhabi, will be a habitat and an environment that nurtures content creation. It is a media authority that encompasses Arab and international companies that are seeking to elevate the level of Arab content. We are trying to build training, production and incubation into this environment and our partnerships with international companies are meant to meet this objective. This is an important step in the ongoing diversification of this emirate’s economy.”
At the launch, twofour54’s CEO Tony Orsten also reiterated that the zone has specifically looked at partnering with companies that would seek to produce more regional content and potentially aid in growing the local talent pool. “We are engaged with partners who are committed to producing high-quality Arabic content in the region. There will be no pressure to hire people from the Academy but we will ensure that those who are trained here have skills that will give them an edge in the local market. The training opportunities we have in mind for media professionals don’t currently exist anywhere in this region.
This is a significant cultural initiative designed to ensure that stories will be told by writers in this region, and we hope this initiative will make homegrown content more attractive and widely available and have an impact on international audiences as well.”
Initially, the zone, which can house about 1000 companies, will be located at Khalifa Park. The production facilities and training academy are slated to be ready by early next year. However, a dedicated place of 250,000 sq.ms will be ready by the waterfront in Mina Zayed in five years time to house the zone.