The pan-Arab satellite TV station, Middle East Broadcasting Center (MBC), has announced Tuesday, March 20, that it will be moving its headquarters from London to the Dubai Media City (DMC). MBC official Ali Al-Haddithi explained that "the intense competition that MBC is facing from other Arab channels and the high costs in Europe," are the reasons behind the move. “Our viewers and our market are down there. All the channels we compete with are in the region,” he added.
Established in 1991, MBC is backed by Shaikh Walid Bin Ibrahim Al-Ibrahim, a brother-in-law of Saudi Arabia's King Fahd.
The announcement came after much speculation had been tossed around as to where MBC will settle. Several countries including Egypt, Jordan and the UAE have set up "free media zones" to persuade Middle East commercial satellite broadcasters currently based in Europe to relocate and benefit from lower production costs and tax concessions.
Jordan and the Gulf emirate of Dubai were reportedly in discussions with the channel to serve as its new base. A few months ago it had been made known by Dubai sources that MBC had signed up in principle to the DMC, and that it had put its studios in Battersea, London, up for sale.
MBC was seeking guarantees of editorial independence, Haddithi told “Al-Sharq Al-Awsat newspaper last March. "We are investing money, so we want guarantees of non-interference in our work, of total freedom to broadcast whatever we deem suitable," he said, adding that the local infrastructure and workforce were also important factors.
DMC, an $800-million state-investment in cutting-edge production and transmission facilities, seems to have been just what the station’s mangers have been looking for.
MBC's move gives a significant boost to Dubai's efforts to become the regional high-tech and media hub. Officially launched in November 2000, DMC holds "a promise of freedom of expression and no censorship," according to its visionary, General Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, crown prince of Dubai and UAE defense minister. The project hopes "to attract international and regional media businesses.”
Companies moving into the DMC will benefit from the Free Zone status, including 100 percent foreign ownership and a 50-year exemption from corporate and personal taxation. Additionally, Sheikh Mohamad guaranteed freedom of speech for firms located in the City.
Sheikh Mohammed told the press that 82 percent of the space in DMC had already been taken up by various media-related companies, but it is definitely Arab satellite broadcasters that the DMC is most keen on attracting. — (Albawaba-MEBG)
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