As you enter Dubai Media City you must be taken by its vastness and beauty along with the artificial lake in its center. But what is actually more impressive is how this piece of land was turned into a “heaven” that is the dream of the Arab Media people. Dubai Media City which is overlapping in space with Dubai Internet City (the lake separates them) was opened in the middle of the year 2001, while the Internet City opened on 28 October 2000. Among the first media firms that were launched in the Dubai Media City was the MBC, which moved there in the spring of 2002. The City includes about 928 media firms and out of those, more than 40 satellite TV channels.
What is the full area of the city? How many media firms exactly? What are the pre-requisites for a media firm to be launched inside the City? Asharq Al Awsat asked all these questions and others to the Chief Executive of the Dubai Media City Abdul Hamid Gomaa’ in his office inside the City. Gomaa’
started his talk to us by defining the size of the City; “ Dubai Media City is part Dubai Internet City which is in turn part of Dubai Free Zone area. The full area of the two cities (Dubai Media City and Dubai Internet City) is about 400 Hectares 1/3 of which is occupied by Dubai Media City with over than 2 million square meters of buildings. I would like to mention that we have expanded the borders of the City. When the City was first launched it included only six centers the most important was the Media and Production sector.
About three years later new aspects of the City’s activities emerged including the publications houses and the print shops, we thus decided to designate a new city for those activities and to call it the “Global Media Production Zone. “ So we moved the publication and printing houses from the Dubai Media City to this new zone especially that print shops need large space. Inside the “Global Media Production Zone”, the area that will be allocated for the printing houses will be called “ Dubai Production City” which lies jabal ‘Ali Area 7 Km away from Dubai Media City.”
As for the new projects of Dubai Media City Gomaa’ added: “ about three months ago we announced the launching of Dubai Studios City in Dubai Land which was chosen for location because of its Studios’ complementary facilities. Dubai Land has a sports city, an auditorium, and natural reserves for outside shooting. Dubai Studios City was a response to the need of TV stations since many stations lack large studios. These studios are special for movie and TV productions.”
On the places allocated the printing shops he said: “ the printing/publishing process requires different sections such as a section to store ink and paper, another for the housing of workers and their families…. etc. That is why we have prepared a full and large area for the printing facilities and chose Jabal ‘Ali as a location since it is close to the port. It is necessary that the printing shops be close to the port.”
Concerning the upgrading phases that the Dubai Media City saw he added: “ development of this City is unlimited. There is continuous upgrading of the infrastructures. One of the reasons that led prominent media firms to come here is the good infrastructure; now we are in the fifth upgrading phase. We are continuously expanding and today we look forward to build special villas for the advertisement companies, we want to offer them more than just offices with doors and walls. Advertisement companies are particular in a sense, that is why we want to specify them by offering them a distinguished environment.”
The Chief Executive asserted that all the buildings at the City are already rented out and it is not possible to find or get a vacancy. The prices naturally soared because of the high demand. The buildings are normally leased for a long term but some leases do not exceed a year. As for the price per square meter and any possible increase in it, Gomaa’ says:” it is difficult to discuss this issue because we deal with each firm according to its status.”
When I asked him whether he had expected all that success for the City especially that the idea was new and the attraction of Arab media firms that always preferred to be located in London was not easy he responded, “ This is not merely a real estate project but a project that stems from wisdom and courage. It is natural for any media project in the Arab world to be sensitive because Arab independent Media firms have always preferred to remain outside the Arab world. Sheik Mohamed Bin Rashed in person was concerned with this project and has always closely followed it. I cannot hide the fact that there has been a worry and a fear by the Arab states surrounding us concerning this project because the Arab countries are not accustomed to the presence of Arab media firms in our region. “
I asked him whether there was an attempt to approach the Arab Media Firms in London before the City was launched? Was there a sense whether they were willing to relocate to Dubai if they found the right environment? He answered back “ there were firms that were bent on relocating once they have found the appropriate environment. For example, the MBC, which presents Arab, content and targets Arabs why should it remain outside. We have realized that Dubai should offer the MBC more incentive than London and that is exactly what happened.”
Did all the features of this project become completed and therefore it is difficult to develop anything more or add anything other than geographical expansion? “ I think if we begin to think that Dubai achieved all its aims that will mean that we have started to regress. We should always seek new horizons there is a role we should play; it is represented in the following
question: how to open new windows of opportunities? For example we should seek new markets such as the Russian and Asian markets One of The main reasons that attracted a lot of media firms to us is the international level of excellent quality services for a lesser price.” He affirmed
Whether there is a selection process of the firms that demand to join the Dubai Media City and whether there are conditions or restrictions for the admittance? he said “ yes there is a selection process. During 2004 we received 114 applications for TV Satellite Channels, we accepted only 21. The firms, whether visual or written media, that are below the professional level we require will be rejected. The firm has to have a strategy. We are also concerned about continuity; we do not want firms that open and close within a year. But we do not impose any conditions on any firm we allow them the freedom and responsibility. This is why the city is successful we have 42 TV Satellite channels, the Arab restrictions on the Media are enough.” As for the Studio bookings, he said that more than 14 Arab and foreign companies have already booked their studios in the Dubai Studios City.