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Sat 12 Sep 2009 04:00 AM

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Middle East investments on the rise

It’s not everyday that a lady gets to visit Saudi Arabia — alone. Besides the thrill of having to don an abaya as per Saudi custom, stepping into Saudi Arabia’s Radio and TV facilities was a wish come true for Digital Studio.

It’s not everyday that a lady gets to visit Saudi Arabia — alone. Besides the thrill of having to don an abaya as per Saudi custom, stepping into Saudi Arabia’s Radio and TV facilities was a wish come true for Digital Studio. For one, although the Saudi broadcaster has not deliberately evaded public attention, it has rarely been covered in the press to date. This month, we take a look at the magnitude and scale of Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Culture and Information’s (MOCI) broadcast projects that run into hundreds of millions of dollars. While we have mentioned about US $100 million worth of projects, it’s just the tip of the iceberg.

The MOCI has mammoth tasks ahead of it with three key projects under way: the migration to HD of existing facilities and building of new ones, the rollout of digital terrestrial television across the Kingdom and an archival project that will take at least another couple of years to complete. But nothing fazes Dr. Riyadh Najm and his team, who have planned the transition with meticulous detail to ensure that the MOCI’s money is well spent.

Besides KSA, other markets including Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain, Abu Dhabi and Qatar are also investing heavily either in building new HD production facilities or migrating to HD.

Abu Dhabi especially has seen several private broadcasters emerge during this time while state-backed broadcasters like Abu Dhabi Media Company have also caused a major stir in the market with its EPL investment coup and its LIVE outside broadcast production arm.

Most of these organisations are still in the process of expanding or upgrading what they have, and many of the key decision makers and their technical advisors will be shopping at IBC.

The film production scene is hotting up in the region as well. In addition to twofour54, the Middle East International Film Festival and the Dubai International Film Festival, we see two more entities — the Abu Dhabi Film Commission and the Doha Tribeca Film Festival taking serious steps forward to encourage filmmaking in the region through their investments in related workshops and seminars.

All in all, while business has been stagnating in international markets, the Middle East continues to be a hotbed of investment and more and more broadcast manufacturers have recognised that this is the place to scout for new investment opportunities.

In the September issue of Digital Studio, you will find a selection of exclusive stories from across the Middle East providing a snapshot of opportunities that abound in this region.Vijaya Cherian is the editor of Digital Studio.

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