Abu Dhabi’s new creative hub aims to attract 16,000 film, TV, gaming professionals

Abu Dhabi’s new creative hub aims to attract 16,000 film, TV, gaming professionals
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Yas Creative Hub, which will open in Abu Dhabi in the fourth quarter of 2021
Abu Dhabi’s new creative hub aims to attract 16,000 film, TV, gaming professionals
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Yas Creative Hub, which will open in Abu Dhabi in the fourth quarter of 2021
Abu Dhabi’s new creative hub aims to attract 16,000 film, TV, gaming professionals
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Yas Creative Hub, which will open in Abu Dhabi in the fourth quarter of 2021
Abu Dhabi’s new creative hub aims to attract 16,000 film, TV, gaming professionals
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Yas Creative Hub, which will open in Abu Dhabi in the fourth quarter of 2021
Abu Dhabi’s new creative hub aims to attract 16,000 film, TV, gaming professionals
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Yas Creative Hub, which will open in Abu Dhabi in the fourth quarter of 2021
Abu Dhabi’s new creative hub aims to attract 16,000 film, TV, gaming professionals
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Yas Creative Hub, which will open in Abu Dhabi in the fourth quarter of 2021
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Updated 25 November 2020

Abu Dhabi’s new creative hub aims to attract 16,000 film, TV, gaming professionals

Abu Dhabi’s new creative hub aims to attract 16,000 film, TV, gaming professionals
  • The Yas Creative Hub will open phase one in Q1 2021 and has already sold 80% of its space
  • While Hollywood, Bollywood shut down, Abu Dhabi was one of the few global entertainment centers to remain open during COVID-19, with $100 million worth of production

DUBAI: Abu Dhabi’s new 270,000 square meter creative hub, which is set to open in 12 months’ time, is aiming to attract over 16,000 professionals from the entertainment, film, TV and gaming sectors, and position the emirate to compete with international locations such as Hollywood, Bollywood and the UK.

“Abu Dhabi is beginning to look like a mature part of the media ecosystem, not just an appendage,” Michael Garin, CEO of Twofour54 Abu Dhabi, told reporters in a virtual press conference on Monday.

“Up until now, our experience has been for people to come, work on a project, and leave. While that was a helpful step in the development of our ecosystem, it's not really what we need. What we need is for people to come here, work here, live here, send their kids to school here, and that's really the impact that the phase we've now entered will have,” he added.

The size of 40 football pitches when complete, the first phase of the Yas Creative Hub is nearly 75 percent built and will be nestled among Yas Island’s other entertainment attractions, such as Yas Marina Circuit, Ferrari World, Yas Waterworld and Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi.




Michael Garin, CEO of Twofour54 Abu Dhabi

When it opens in the fourth quarter of 2021, around 600 companies and 5000 professionals will relocate to the facility, including industry names such as CNN, Ubisoft and Unity Technologies.

Facilities will include five towers, the Arab Film Studio, a 26,000 square meter external amphitheater, a public park and 26,000 square meters of rooftop space. The campus will double the amount of studio space available in the emirate.

One of the ways the Abu Dhabi Film Commission attracts blockbuster productions to the emirate is by offering a 30 percent cashback rebate on production spend. Garin believes the new campus will help generate a higher return on investment. He pointed out that for every dirham the Abu Dhabi government spends on the rebate, three dirhams is generated in income for the emirate in spin-off revenue for hotels and associated businesses in the surrounding area.

“But once we build the sustainable ecosystem and people live here, because they can work here, that multiplier expands from three to four. Why? Because they're sending their kids to school here, they're renting apartments or buying houses or buying cars, they're spending money on food. So, the implications of this creative hub and the ecosystem that we're building transcends just the industrial impact,” he said.

Around 80 percent of available space in the campus has already been sold, and Garin, who has worked in the entertainment industry for over 40 years, said the campus has already shown proof of concept.

“We will shortly be able to announce major Hollywood productions that are already scheduled to be here… We know it's sustainable because we already know what our pipeline is for 2021. Our problem now is not to bring in the productions, our problem, and our challenge… which we're addressing aggressively, is to have enough facilities for the productions that want to be here,” he said.

During the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, studios in the US, UK and India shut down production, while Abu Dhabi was one of the few entertainment destinations to continue operating and around $100 million worth of production actually took place at Twofour54’s facilities during the pandemic.

Katrina Anderson, director of commercial services, said Twofour54 also supported companies struggling during COVID-19. “We've done COVID support packages. We haven't just put payments on hold, because then if you put it on hold, people still have to pay that back,” she said.

“So we actually provided rental relief to partners, SMEs, entrepreneurs, any of the areas that we’re really trying to grow, provided they have been with us and they are partners on campus and they meet certain criteria. But we’ve helped so many partners, I think it’s over one hundred we've provided rent relief to and support to,” she added.




Katrina Anderson, director of commercial services

Abu Dhabi has hosted high-profile productions such as Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens, Fast and Furious 7, Brad Pitt's War Machine and the US soap opera The Bold and the Beautiful, but with the opening of the Yas Creative Hub the emirate will be hoping to attract even more blockbuster names and become one of the top entertainment capitals of the world.


Does Twitter’s Trump ban expose a dangerous double standard?

Does Twitter’s Trump ban expose a dangerous double standard?
Updated 16 January 2021

Does Twitter’s Trump ban expose a dangerous double standard?

Does Twitter’s Trump ban expose a dangerous double standard?
  • Why did the platform act now, and why does it tolerate so many other preachers of hate?

The decision by Twitter to permanently ban US President Donald Trump caused many people in the Arab world to accuse the platform of double standards.

Why, they wonder, did it take so long for action to be taken against him, and why are so many other public figures known for spreading hate and intolerance allowed to continue to tweet freely.

“Throughout history, God has imposed upon them (the Jews) people who would punish them for their corruption,” said Egyptian preacher Yusuf Al-Qaradawi in a fatwa.


“The last punishment was that of Hitler … This was a divine punishment for them. Next time, God willing, it will be done at the hands of the faithful believers.”

The Egyptian scholar has a long history of issuing hate-filled and antisemitic fatwas — yet he continues to enjoy the freedom provided by Twitter, which he joined in May 2011, to spread his objectionable views and ideas to more than 3 million followers.

“This decision (by Twitter to ban Trump) raises questions about the double standards with which these (social media) companies deal,” said veteran journalist and media expert Dr. Abdellatif El-Menawy, who until 2011 was head of news with Egypt’s national broadcaster. “And also the extent to which the motives of these companies for their decisions are considered honest motives all the time.

“Trump’s approach, which encourages hate, has not changed for years. These companies did not take a stance on the US president at the time, but have now taken a position (when he is about to leave office).

“There are other personalities, some of them from the Middle East, who have been using hate speech for years and none of the major social media companies have taken action against them.”

Twitter suspended Trump’s account on Jan. 8 in the aftermath of the storming of the Capitol by his supporters on Jan. 6. They gave “the risk of further incitement of violence” as the reason for the ban.

“In the context of horrific events this week, we made it clear on Wednesday that additional violations of the Twitter rules would potentially result in this very course of action,” the platform said in a blog post, detailing the reasoning behind its decision.

Late last year Twitter updated its rules relating to hateful conduct, saying that it aims to create a more inclusive environment for users. In a blog entry posted on July 9, 2019 and updated on Dec. 2, 2020, the company said: “Our primary focus is on addressing the risks of offline harm, and research shows that dehumanizing language increases that risk.”

However El-Menawy said this might be a case of “too little, too late” for the social media company to be heralded as a champion for standing up to hate speech. The timing of the Trump ban, he says, “is questionable and raises suspicions about the motives.”

Mohammed Najem, executive director of SMEX, a digital-rights organization focusing on Arabic-speaking countries, echoed El-Menawy’s concerns.

“It shows that the companies don’t really know what they are doing when it comes to content moderation,” he said.

“For years many civil-society groups, in the US and around the globe, have been asking the right questions about content moderation but they were mostly ignored, or not given enough attention or acted upon by the tech companies. They have a lot of work to do (on this issue) and they need to listen to civil-society groups.”

Throughout his term as president, Trump has courted controversy with his Twitter activity. Supporters, opponents and journalists worldwide closely monitor his personal account on the platform, more so than the official account of the presidency (@POTUS), for a glimpse into his mind and motives.

As Brian L. Ott and Greg Dickinson, authors of the book “The Twitter Presidency: Donald J. Trump and the Politics of White Rage,” wrote in an op-ed published by USA Today: “Historically, Twitter has been reluctant to hold Trump responsible for his speech, likely because he was their most notorious user.” They added: “Simply put, Trump was good for business.”

Trump — who was impeached on Wednesday on charges of “incitement of insurrection,” making him the first US president to be impeached twice — indeed was one of Twitter’s top users. He had nearly 89 million followers, and his posts had been retweeted 389,842,552 times and liked 1,659,180,779 times since he opened his account on March 18, 2009. He was mentioned in 16 million tweets on the day of the Capitol siege, and 17 million on the day after.

While Twitter has special rules that apply to the accounts of world leaders, it insists they are not immune to its enforcement policies. Yet some continue to post comment considered objectionable by many.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, for example, cannot be compared to President Trump in terms of number of followers or reach on Twitter, but his activity on the platform follows a similarly dangerous pattern. Just last week, the Iranian leader posted false claims across his multiple accounts — he has ones in English, Spanish, Farsi, Arabic and Russian — that COVID-19 vaccines developed in US and UK are

“completely untrustworthy,” France has “HIV-tainted blood supplies,” and it is “not unlikely that they (Western countries) would want to contaminate other nations.”

This follows years of similarly dangerous and damaging tweets in which Khamenei incited violence against other nations. In May 2020, for example, he said that Iran will “support and assist any nation or any group anywhere who opposes and fights the Zionist regime.”

Yusuf Al-Qaradawi has a long history of issuing hate-filled fatwas — yet he continues to enjoy the freedom provided by Twitter, which he joined in May 2011, to spread his objectionable views and ideas to more than 3 million followers. (File/AFP)

Other accounts, such as those of Al-Qaradawi and Qais Al-Khazali — both of whom have featured in the Preachers of Hate series published by Arab News — also remain active. Al-Khazali, from Iraq, was designated as a global terrorist by the US State Department in January last year.

The issue is not unique to accounts originating in the Arab world. In India, for example, social-media platforms, including Facebook, have been criticized for continuing to allow users to spread hate speech.

Anti-Muslim rhetoric from Yogi Adityanath, chief minister of Uttar Pradesh state, is blamed for contributing to a rise in attacks against the minority Muslim community across the country, for example.

There are many accounts on Twitter and other social-media platforms that have prompted similar concerns. Observers warn that without better controls and moderation of objectionable content, Twitter runs the risk that its image as a promoter of free speech will be damaged and, through inactivity, it will come to be viewed as a promoter of hate speech.

Twitter did not respond to requests from Arab News for comment.