TwoFour54 zone created in Abu Dhabi

Will focus on developing Arabic content, media

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates -- Abu Dhabi's global media ambitions were boosted further with the announcement Oct. 12 of an ambitious content creation zone.

The zone, called twofour54 after Abu Dhabi's geographical coordinates, will focus primarily on developing Arabic content for an Arabic-speaking audience and encouraging the growth and learning of local Arab media.

The project, bankrolled by the Abu Dhabi government, will provide a fully-equipped 'media zone' that will bring together local and international companies to encourage local content production.

A 'Who's Who' line-up including BBC, CNN, Random House, Harper Collins and the Reuters Thompson Foundation are on board the latest project to be spawned from the media ambitions of the UAE capital.

Speaking at the launch, Wayne Borg, COO of twofour54, told The Hollywood Reporter: "This project is significant for Abu Dhabi because it plays into how it connects with the cultural positioning of the city. If you look at any other city in the world that has a strong cultural focus, what they've got in common is a rich and diverse content media industry. Twofour54 reinforces the cultural positioning that Abu Dhabi is aspiring to."

CEO Tony Orsten said "With twofour54, we are launching a major initiative that will encourage and stimulate Arabic content creation, embracing film, television, digital media and art."

Twofour54 will be located on a temporary site scheduled for completion in early 2009 until a permanent 200,000 square foot waterside development is built.

The site will include production and post-production facilities, five studios, support services for companies including relocation and professional expertise, and a vocational training academy to stimulate local talent.

"The role of the training academy is about up-skilling and re-skilling talent that is in the region already, to get it to a level that is internationally acceptable," said Borg. Added Orsten, "Providing a collaborative campus where all types of media can work together will see Abu Dhabi become a center for content creation throughout the Middle East and beyond."

CNN plan to broadcast a daily prime time news cast from the hub, Thomson Reuters Foundation will run media courses, and Abu Dhabi Media Company have announced they will relocate to the development, as will Financial Times, which launched a Middle East edition in April this year. The BBC are set open a centre providing training programs in Arabic, the first time the BBC has entered into this kind of partnership.

While the credit crunch is being felt throughout the global media industry, in Abu Dhabi there is a sense that anything is possible. According to a PWC study, the regional media market is forecast to expand at double-digit rates annually over the next five years. Recently the government launched a $1 billion film-financing project, Imagenation, and the second Middle East International Film Festival is currently under way in the capital.

Though he would not reveal exactly how much the emirate has injected into twofour54, Orsten said "This is an important step in the diversification of the economy. It's not about turning a profit immediately, we're not a real estate company that has to make money in a year, and it's a buyers market at the moment with attracting talent from elsewhere to Abu Dhabi."
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