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Media wars?

Media wars?

Abu Dhabi now has its own media zone that competes with Dubai Media City. But is the UAE in need of yet another media hub?

October 13, 2008 2:43 by

The Abu Dhabi Media Park launched today. The 200,000 square meter project will take over five years to complete, Gulf News reports. It will be temporarily housed closed to Khalifa Park until its larger campus in Mina Zayed is completed around 2014.

But does the UAE really need yet another media park? Aren’t Dubai Studio City, IMPZ and Dubai Media City enough? Apparently not. Abu Dhabi Media Park is quick to highlight its unique selling proposition: speaking to Gulf News, a senior executive at the Abu Dhabi Media Park states that at the media park content will be created “by Arabs for Arabs.”

While it sounds like it will have an exclusion policy, it won’t. In September 2008, the Abu Dhabi Media Company, which will be located in the media park, forged a deal worth $250 million with Participant Media, a Los Angeles based production company behind controversial hits like “An Inconvenient Truth” and “Syriana” (which, ironically, was censored in the UAE). The deal is to produce over 15 feature films over a span of five years. More recently, a subsidiary of the Abu Dhabi Media Company, Image-nation Abu Dhabi, signed a deal with National Geographic Entertainment to produce 10 to 15 films by 2014. Clearly, the content created ‘by Arabs for Arabs’ will have significant boosts from non-Arabs.

But it’s easy to be cynical. The truth is without foreign help it’ll take decades before Abu Dhabi’s media scene matures enough to produce good quality documentaries. At least with the presence of established production companies, Arabs will be involved in the production of high-profile movies and documentaries: “We will be doing films on this region using local talent, producers and local writers,” said Tim Kelly, president of National Geographic Global Media (quoted in Gulf News).

Not only do the collaborations allow Arabs to take part, they also give nationals and Arabs a chance to have hands on experience without having to deal with the cutthroat competition other media hopefuls would face in the United States.

Such initiatives have yet to be announced in Dubai’s DMC. Indeed, DMC seems like more of a business park than a breeding ground for local talent and Arab-centric media productions. Dubai, however, doesn’t seem keen on becoming a center of arts and culture. Abu Dhabi does.

It appears the two emirates are vying for difference audiences. And if that’s true, then it begs the question: is the Abu Dhabi Media Park yet another addition to a larger ‘vision’ for the UAE?

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