The United Arab Emirates has the region's highest concentration of media free zones, which are business communities for the media sector. Each Emirate has a media city/zone where startups, established media enterprises and talented professionals can work in close proximity, creating a hub for innovation and creativity. The UAE free zones have further evolved into specialist sector-specific zones, with Dubai Production City providing a world-class ecosystem for media production, printing, publishing and packaging and Dubai Studio City serving as the region's leading business community for film and television production.
The free zones provide a strong regulatory environment and streamlined services for obtaining permits and visas, thereby allowing media startups and established businesses to plan growth and innovation strategies. Media companies established in the free zones can be 100% foreign owned, and are exempt from personal, income and corporate taxes as well as customs duties for goods and services. Further, the free zones offer a variety of office spaces, as well as production and business facilities, talent development initiatives and training and business support services.
As a result of the protection and freedom offered in the free zones, and the stability, security and infrastructure in the country, the UAE has attracted media enterprises and talent from across the world. This has created an environment where diverse voices and rich media content are produced, consumed, and distributed in the country, region and the world.
* TwoFour54, Abu Dhabi's Media Free Zone is home to 600+ media companies, 850+ freelancers, 130+ entrepreneurs, and 5000+ media professionals.
* Dubai Media City Free Zone, is home to 1,500+ companies, 5,000+ professionals from 142+ nationalities. It produces publications in 5 languages and broadcasting in 11 languages.
* Dubai Production City has more than 220 companies and 6,800 professionals.
* Dubai Studio City is home to more than 275 companies, 2,800+ professional, 1,000+ freelancers and the largest sound stages in the Middle East that has supported major cinema projects including Star Trek Beyond and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.
* Over the last five years, Dubai Media City, Dubai Production City and Dubai Studio City have offered roughly 55 free workshops to over 2,000 participants. In 2020, they offered 10 virtual sessions tailored to the media, film and music industry.
* The Council of Arab Ministers for Information named Dubai as the Capital for Arab Media in 2020.
Below are two examples of the types of initiatives undertaken by the Ajman Media Free Zone to nurture the diversity of media:
* Ajman Media Zone entered partnerships with local and international media agencies to host forums and events focused on publishing, adopting principles of openness and balance, and preserving traditional forms of culture. These events attracted local and international media professionals, allowing for rich dialogue and exchange.
* In partnership with X Movies, Ajman Media Zone supports projects that produce a variety of cultural, cinematic, television and radio content as a means of ensuring the production of diverse media content and encouraging creativity.
The achievements in the media sector have been possible due to the existing business regulatory framework, the cities' infrastructure and the country's safe and secure environment that have attracted media talents and businesses to come to the UAE. In addition to this, the incubator and entrepreneurship programs have created an environment that encourages creativity and innovation.
With the swift shift of cultural programing to the digital space in 2020, and the UAE's upward trend in recent years in both mobile and fixed broadband, the UAE is going to build on its strengths and increase its focus on the digital cultural economy.