APRIL 24 2007 13:19h
The Iraqi Kurdish regional government and a Dubai firm are to build a $400 million "media city" in Arbil.
International television networks will be attracted to the stable Kurdistan region because worsening violence stopped them having offices in Baghdad, they said.
Under the deal to create the Arbil City Media Company, the regional government will have a 60 percent stake and the Dubai sound TV and Cinema Production company a 40 percent stake.
Start-up capital will be $40 million. The company, which will oversee the creation of a complex of television studios, hotels, shops and housing, will then be open to shareholders.
Anwar al-Yasiri, an Iraqi who runs the Dubai company, said his firm and a British company would build the complex in a northern Arbil suburb within two years.
"The philosophy of the government to support such a project is to create job opportunities for the sons of the area and to support and develop the tourism and media city sectors," Civil Society Affairs minister George Mansour told Reuters.
Mansour helped establish Iraq's media network after Saddam Hussein's fall in 2003.
The project will include a television transmission and re- transmission centre with a capacity for up to 120 stations.
"This project will put the Kurdistan area on the international map when television stations start airing from that area," Yasiri said.
Business costs in the Kurdistan region are significantly lower than in neighbouring regions such as Dubai after the government passed liberal foreign investment laws last year.
"Even if in the beginning we are only able to provide services for 60 television stations, this will still generate profits, but we expect a much bigger size of work," Yasiri said.
Six satellite television stations currently air from Kurdistan, which is home to hundreds of foreign companies, including 400 Turkish ones.
Yasiri said the complex was the first stage of a project which will include "Internet" and "Knowledge" cities, where international universities, technical colleges and training centres would be established.