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Saudi Arabia plans to build a new media city on the outskirts of its capital. But will visa requirements and cultural intransigence thwart a bold idea?
December 17, 2009 1:02 by Sarah Abdullah
The government of Saudi Arabia is hoping that visitors to the desert outside Riyadh will soon find themselves in the midst of a leading edge media cluster.
That’s because one of the country’s most ambitious projects is the $80 billion Media Production City under construction off the King Fahd road on the outskirts of Riyadh. The project is expected to have its first phase completed next year and be fully operational by 2020.
When first proposed, many took the idea of Saudi Arabia building a media production zone with a pinch of salt. That’s because of the religious ban in place for the past three decades on cinemas throughout the country and the stringent regulations over media content, ranging from print to video production. All media is under the careful supervision of the local Ministry of Information and Culture.
“They’re building what?” asked spokesmen for numerous international media companies contacted by TRENDS when asked how Media Production City would be greeted by the industry’s global players.
Nonetheless, Saudi Arabia is clear that it intends to become a serious competitor in the local media production industry. “I think that building a media production city in Saudi Arabia’s capital is a positive step and a good idea which will help bring unity in the new media production sector, while bringing all the major production companies together under one roof,” says Naser Parkar, video editor at Al Wafa Media Production in Dammam, located in the Eastern Province.
Massive construction projects in Saudi Arabia over the last five years are nothing new. It’s been nearly five years since the first of six economic cities – King Abdullah Economic City – began operating in Rabigh. But this latest media investment shows just how far ahead the country is planning as it moves away from an economy based solely on black gold.